Coastal Mountains Affect Oceans

If you ever wondered why the Atlantic Ocean is much saltier than the Pacific Ocean, we now have answers.

Researchers at Oregon State University and the University of Hamburg published a study saying global mountain ranges and the Antarctic ice sheet appear to be the cause.

The report found the Andes and the Rocky Mountains prevent most of the Pacific’s evaporating water from moving inland, so it falls as rain or snow, eventually returning to the Pacific Ocean and keeping it fresher.

But in the case of the Atlantic, the mountains of east Africa keep rainfall away from the coastline.

So, being colder and saltier, the surface water of the North Atlantic Ocean sinks, and that sends warmer water circulating back along the European coastline.

“So the warm water flows from the tropics and subtropics towards the North Atlantic, and that’s what makes the climate in northern Europe relatively mild,” said Andreas Schmittner, Lead Author, OSU Asst. Professor.

Computer simulations found removing the mountain ranges creates the opposite effect, a fresh North Atlantic and a salty North Pacific.