The composition of Standard Seawater and the definition of the Reference-Composition Salinity Scale

Frank J. Millero, Rainer Feistel, Daniel G. Wright, Trevor J. McDougall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

608 Scopus citations


Fundamental determinations of the physical properties of seawater have previously been made for Atlantic surface waters, referred to as “Standard Seawater”. In this paper a Reference Composition consisting of the major components of Atlantic surface seawater is determined using these earlier analytical measurements. The stoichiometry of sea salt introduced here is thus based on the most accurate prior determination of the composition, adjusted to achieve charge balance and making use of the 2005 atomic weights. Reference Seawater is defined as any seawater that has the Reference Composition and a new Reference-Composition Salinity SR is defined to provide the best available estimate of the Absolute Salinity of both Reference Seawater and the Standard Seawater that was used in the measurements of the physical properties. From a practical point of view, the value of SR can be related to the Practical Salinity S by SR=(35.16504/35)gkg-1×S. Reference Seawater that has been “normalized” to a Practical Salinity of 35 has a Reference-Composition Salinity of exactly SR=35.16504 g kg−1. The new independent salinity variable SR is intended to be used as the concentration variable for future thermodynamic functions of seawater, as an SI-based extension of Practical Salinity, as a reference for natural seawater composition anomalies, as the currently best estimate for Absolute Salinity of IAPSO Standard Seawater, and as a theoretical model for the electrolyte mixture “seawater”.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)50-72
Number of pages23
JournalDeep-Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Chlorinity
  • Composition
  • Conductivity
  • Density
  • Salinity
  • Seawater

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science


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