The ocean and atmosphere are intricately linked. As such, it is not surprising that wind can influence the salinity of the ocean. Winds can decrease salinity by blowing in storm fronts that carry heavy rains and increase salinity by accelerating evaporation at the sea surface. But winds can also transfer energy into the ocean, vertically mixing fresh rainwater deep into the ocean or pushing surface water away from the coast causing the upwelling of cold, salty nutrient-rich waters. In this way, these salt-wind linkages are powerful forces on our planet shaping ocean circulation, driving the global water cycle, and fueling life.
This study examined the relationship between rainfall, wind speed, and near-surface salinity in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. This work was part of the larger SPURS-2 field program focused on the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). The relationship was not as simple, however, as strong winds leading to high precipitation leading to mixing of low salinity water. Instead, researchers puzzled out that the important element was the variation in the zonal (east-west) component of the winds. Changes in zonal winds lead to strong storms, high rainfall, and a decrease in salinity.
Riser, S.C., Yang, J., and Drucker, R. (2019). View the full paper.
Though known by different names (e.g., Rockies, Sierra Nevada, Andes), the Cordillera Mountain chain extends from Alaska to the tip of South America along the Pacific Coast. As these mountains extend through Central America, several small passes or breaks in the mountains lead to interesting wind features that can impact ocean salinity. These breaks act as wind tunnels, seasonally creating episodic gale-force offshore jets of wind, known as gap winds. Two such breaks occur at the Gulfs of Tehuantepec and Papagayo. In this study, researchers examine how gap wind events facilitate the upwelling of saltier deeper waters.
Grodsky, S.A., Carton, J.A., and Bentamy, A. (2014). View the full paper.
This paper introduces the Combined Active/Passive (CAP) data produced for SMAP that combines wind and salinity data together. While this paper is quite technical in its description of this algorithm, it provides key insights into a novel way to process salinity and wind data.
Fore, A.G., Yueh, S.H., Tang, W., Stiles, B.W., and Hayashi, A.K. (2016). View the full paper.
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