By Christophe Maes
Retrievals of the Sea Surface Salinity from space-borne mission like SMOS or Aquarius SAC-D provide for the first time an essential variable in the determination of ocean mass. If the field will reveal a lot of new signal at the surface its influence on the ocean dynamics is even more important at depths where it participates to the stratification of the water column. Concomitant with temperature profiles, reliable in situ observations of salinity at depth are now available at the global ocean scales. Above the main pycnocline (50-250m in the Tropics), Maes and O’Kane (2014) have recently shown that the stabilizing effect due to salinity could be isolated from its thermal counterpart by separating its role in the computation of the buoyancy frequency. In addition, relationships between such salinity stratification at depths and the SSS are shown to be well defined and quasi-linear in the tropics (see figure), providing some indication that in the future, analyses that consider both satellite surface salinity measurements at the surface and vertical profiles at depth will result in a better determination of the role of the salinity stratification in climate prediction systems.
Maes, C., and T. J. O’Kane (2014), Seasonal variations of the upper ocean salinity stratification in the Tropics, J. Geophys. Res. Oceans, 119, 1706–1722, doi:10.1002/2013JC009366.