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Giant Hidden Blob of Water in the Atlantic Ocean Stuns Scientists

The theory that the Atlantic Ocean, like the Pacific and Indian Oceans, had a water mass within it has finally been proven by researchers.
Cover Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Yaroslav Shuraev
Cover Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Yaroslav Shuraev

Researchers have located a new water mass amid the expansive Atlantic Ocean. Experts had long theorized that an undetected blob of water is situated in the expanse, Live Science reported.

Researchers finally managed to identify the water mass that stretches across the Atlantic, from the tip of Brazil to the Gulf of Guinea, near West Africa.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Sebastian Voortman
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Sebastian Voortman

Researchers who achieved the feat recently published their findings in Geophysical Research Letters.

Similar water mass bodies have been located in the Indian and Pacific oceans, Live Science reported. Considering that the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans share similar features, experts have always believed there was a smiliar water mass in the latter.

"It seemed controversial that the equatorial water mass is present in the Pacific and Indian oceans but missing in the Atlantic Ocean because the equatorial circulation and mixing in all three oceans have common features," Viktor Zhurbas, a physicist and oceanologist at The Shirshov Institute of Oceanology in Moscow, told Live Science in an email.

"The identified new water mass has allowed us to complete (or at least more accurately describe) the phenomenological pattern of basic water masses of the World Ocean," he wrote.

Ruben Boekeloo
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Ruben Boekeloo

Ocean water is a total of diverse elements, Live Science reported, and its features are not uniform in all places. Various masses and layers are interconnected with each other to form the whole system. Water mass is the unique portion of the entire body with similar features.

Water mass has a shared geography, formation history, and common physical properties, such as density and dissolved isotopes of oxygen, nitrate, and phosphate, Live Science reported.

To situate water masses, oceanographers take into consideration the relationship between temperature and salinity across the ocean. These two values come together to provide the density of the seawater.

The analysis between temperature and salinity led to the discovery of equatorial waters in the Pacific and Indian oceans, back in 1942, Live Science reported. For both oceans, the water mass was formed because of the mixing of waters from the north and south.

It was noted that both the Indian and Pacific Equatorial waters have temperatures and salinities curving along lines of constant density that are easily distinguishable from the surrounding water.

Despite their best efforts, experts could not find such a relationship of temperature and salinity in the Atlantic Ocean, Live Science reported. To search for the particular water mass, researchers associated with the paper "Is There the Equatorial Water Mass in the Atlantic Ocean?" went through data collected by the Argo program.

thiago japyassu
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Photo by thiago japyassu

“In 1998, the Argo program was launched, which collects information from inside the ocean using a fleet of robotic instruments that drift with the ocean currents and move up and down between the surface and a mid-water level,” the paper reads.

The data pointed the researchers toward the Atlantic Equatorial Water, and they believe the blob was most likely formed by mixing the South Atlantic Central Water and the North Atlantic Central Water.

“Argo data allowed us to distinguish a formerly unnoticed water mass in the main thermocline of the Equatorial Atlantic and thereby complete the phenomenological pattern of basic water masses of the World Ocean,” they wrote.

"It was easy to confuse the Atlantic Equatorial Water with the South Atlantic Central Water, and in order to distinguish them it was necessary to have a fairly dense network of vertical temperature and salinity profiles covering the entire Atlantic Ocean," Zhurbas said.

Zhurbas hopes that the water mass will give scientists a better understanding of the ocean's mixing processes, which is essential to phenomena like the oceans' transport of heat, oxygen, and nutrients around the globe, Live Science reported.

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