Published on Tuesday, 16 June 2009 00:31
How much salt is in the sea?
We know more or less the amount of water in the world wide oceans. We can test samples of sea water from here and there to discover the percentage of dissolved minerals. The Atlantic, for example, is slightly saltier than the rest of the oceans. The Sargasso Sea in the middle of the Atlantic is the saltiest part of the ocean. With these variations in mind, we can at best give only a rough estimate of the salt in the seas.
An expert who sets out to estimate the amount of salt in the sea must take many samples of the watery ocean from the surface and from the great depths below. He must allow for the loss of salt by monsoon winds and other forces of nature, forces which operate while he i s making his calculations. He must allow for the millions of tons added daily to the sea by the rivers.
A,11 these complicated factors make his work very difficult. Even if he is as precise as possible, he cannot give us more than a very rough estimate of the amount of salt dissolved in the ocean waters of the world. Nevertheless, several scient1sts have dared to make such a guess and their independent estimates are close enough to give us a rougY: idea of the amount of salt in the sea.
Salt, the sodium chloride we call table salt, is but one of many chemical salts dissolved in the ocean. Most experts agree that there are roughly 50 quadrillion tons of these chemical salts dissolved in the world oceans. In France and the United States this is 50, followed by 15 zeros. In England and Germany, the figure is 50 followed by 14 zeros.
In solid form, these chemicals would cover the dry land to a depth of 500 feet.
If all these salts would be extracted from the sea and dumped on North America, our United States would be buried almost a mile deep, Most of this chemical brew is ordinary table salt.
We can be more precise about the percentage of sodium chloride in sea water, basing cur figures taken from samples around the world. Most experts agree that this ordinary salt makes up more than 77% of the total chemical salts dissolved in sea water. This means that there is about 38 quadrillion tons of table salt in the oceans – and billions of tons are being added every year.
The chemical salts dissolved in a cubic mile of sea water is estimated to be around 166 million tons. About 128 million tons of this chemical mixture is sodium chloride. More than ten percent of the mixture is magnesium chloride and almost five percent magnesium sulphate. About three and a half percent is calcium sulphate and about two and a half percent is potassium sulphate.
These salts are not the only chemicals dissolved in the sea far from it. There are copper and zinc, magnesium and other dissolved minerals. There are billions of tons of gold and silver dissolved, in the oceans. If we could extract the gold from just a cubic mile of sea water, there would be enough of the shiny yellow metal to build about 100 solid gold automobiles.