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New salinity maps reveal the impact of climate variability on oceans

Global sea surface salinity 2012 and 2017Since the saltiness of ocean surface waters is a key variable in the climate system, understanding how this changes is important to understanding climate change. Thanks to ESA’s Climate Change Initiative, scientists now have better insight into sea-surface salinity with the most complete global dataset ever produced from space.

The CCI's Sea Surface Salinity research team, led by Jacqueline Boutin of LOCEAN and Nicolas Reul of IFREMER, has merged data from three satellite missions to create a global timeseries that spans nine years, with maps produced every week and every month at a spatial resolution of 50 km.

They used observations of brightness temperature to derive sea-surface salinity from microwave sensors onboard the SMOS, Aquarius, and Soil Moisture Active Passive satellite missions. 

The dataset is freely available for download from the CCI Open Data Portal.

To demonstrate the benefits of the new dataset, ESA’s CCI Sea Surface Salinity project is carrying out a number of climate studies. These are focused on an improved understanding of the water cycle in the Bay of Bengal, an area prone to severe tropical cyclones, and in the Gulf of Guinea; on understanding the role of salinity on the stratification of the upper layer of the ocean and its effect on the air–sea exchanges; and on a climate variability reconstruction in the Atlantic that encompasses the recently-observed North Atlantic salinity anomaly.

The team is currently working with climate scientists to compare the new dataset with in situ observations from Argo floats and ships, and with the output from models.

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