Good question. "Steady state" means that ocean
saltiness is not changing --it is stable. At the
same time that salt is entering the ocean (for
example, from rivers) it is also being removed by
other processes. Some elements, such as silicon
and calcium, are used by marine organisms to build
their shells or skeletons. Others, such as
potassium and sodium, are absorbed onto small
particles of clay and sediment and are deposited
on the sea floor. The salt inputs and outputs
balance each other, so that there is no net change
in ocean saltiness.
In the 1700's
geologists attempted to calculate the age of the
earth by measuring the oceans' saltiness and
volume, and estimating how long it would take for
that much salt to be added. But they didn't
realize that salt was also being removed, so their
age estimates were much too young.
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