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APPLICATION NOTE NO. 14
1978 Practical Salinity Scale
Revised January 1989

Print version

Should you not be already familiar with it, we would like to call your attention to the January 1980 issue of the IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering, which is dedicated to presenting the results of a multi-national effort to obtain a uniform repeatable Practical Salinity Scale, based upon electrical conductivity measurements. This work has been almost universally accepted by researchers, and all instruments delivered by Sea-Bird since February 1982 have been supplied with calibration data based upon the new standard.

The value for conductivity at 35 ppt, 15 degrees C, and 0 pressure [C(35,15,0)] was not agreed upon in the IEEE reports--Culkin & Smith used 42.914 mmho/cm (p 23), while Poisson used 42.933 mmho/cm (p 47). It really does not matter which value is used, provided that the same value is used during data reduction that was used to compute instrument calibration coefficients. Our instrument coefficients are computed using C(35,15,0) = 42.914 mmho/cm.

The PSS 1978 equations and constants for computing salinity from in-situ measurements of conductivity, temperature, and pressure are given in the 'Conclusions' section of the IEEE journal (p 14) and are reproduced below. In the first equation, 'R' is obtained by dividing the conductivity value measured by your instrument by C(35,15,0), or 42.914 mmho/cm. Note that the PSS equations are based upon conductivity in units of mmho/cm, which are equal in magnitude to units of mS/cm. If you are working in conductivity units of Siemens/meter (S/m), multiply your conductivity values by 10 before using the PSS 1978 equations.

Also note that the equations assume pressure relative to the sea-surface. Absolute pressure gauges (as used in all Sea-Bird CTD instruments) have a vacuum on the reference side of their sensing diaphragms and indicate atmospheric pressure (nominally 10.1325 dbar) at the sea-surface. This reading must be subtracted to obtain pressure as required by the PSS equations. The pressure reading displayed when using Sea-Bird's Seasoft CTD acquisition, display, and post-processing software is the corrected sea-surface pressure and is used by SEASOFT to compute salinity, density, etc in accordance with the PSS equations.

1978 PRACTICAL SALINITY SCALE EQUATIONS, from IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering, Vol. OE-5, No. 1, January 1980, page 14.


Application Note Revision History
Date Description
  Initial release.

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