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WET Labs

Does it matter whether you use natural or artificial seawater for calibrations? Which does Sea-Bird use?

For SBE 4 conductivity calibrations, Sea-Bird uses natural seawater that has been carefully collected, stored, UV irradiated, and filtered. Artificial seawater is not adequate if calibration errors are to be kept below 0.010 psu.
Note: SBE 4 is the conductivity sensor in the SBE 9plus, 25, and 25plus profiling CTDs.

The primary difference between natural and artificial seawater is the behavior of conductivity versus temperature. The practical salinity scale 1978 equations include a term rt. This term is expanded into a fourth order equation that describes the variation of conductivity versus temperature for a sample of constant salinity. The equation’s coefficients are derived by fitting to natural seawater samples. Artificial seawater does not have the same conductivity versus temperature characteristic, providing incorrect coefficients and causing a slope error in the calibration.

For calibrations of conductivity sensors other than the SBE 4, Sea-Bird uses artificial seawater (NaCl solution). However, we place an SBE 4 conductivity sensor in each bath, providing a standard for reference to the natural seawater calibration. This allows us to correct errors in the coefficients and slope introduced with the artificial seawater calibration.

For calibration of temperature sensors, Sea-Bird uses artificial seawater (NaCl solution).