Halocline - Description


In the plot, one can discern three layers:

  • About 50 m of low salinity water "swimming" on top of the ocean. The temperature is -1.8 °C, which is very near to the freezing point. This layer blocks heat transfer from the warmer, deeper levels into the ice sheet, which has considerable effect on its thickness.
  • About 150 m of steeply rising salinity and increasing temperature. This is the actual halocline.
  • The deep layer with nearly constant salinity and slowly decreasing temperature.

A halocline can be easily created and observed in a drinking glass or other clear vessel. If fresh water is slowly poured over a quantity of salt water, using a spoon held horizontally at water-level to prevent mixing, a hazy interface layer, the halocline, will soon be visible due to the varying index of refraction across the boundary.

A halocline is most commonly confused with a thermocline - a thermocline is an area within a body of water that marks a drastic change in temperature.

Haloclines are common in water-filled caves near the ocean. Less dense fresh water from the land forms a layer over salt water from the ocean. For underwater cave explorers, this can cause the optical illusion of air space in caverns. Passing through the halocline tends to stir up the layers.

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