National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2022

Sea surface salinity variability in the Bering Sea in 2015-2020

Zhao, J., Y. Wang, W. Liu, H. Bi, E.D. Cokelet, C.W. Mordy, N. Lawrence-Slavas, and C. Meinig

Remote Sens., 14(3), 758, doi: 10.3390/rs14030758, View online (open access) (2022)

Salinity in the Bering Sea is vital for the physical environment that is tied to the productive ecosystem and the properties of Pacific waters transported to the Arctic Ocean. Its salinity variability reflects many fundamental processes, including sea ice formation/melting and river runoff, but its spatial and temporal characteristics require better documentation. This study utilizes remote sensing products and in situ observations collected by saildrone missions to investigate Sea Surface Salinity (SSS) variability. All Satellite products resolve the large-scale pattern set up by the relatively salty deep basin and the fresh coastal region, but they can be inaccurate near the ice edge and near land. The SSS annual cycle exhibits seasonal maxima in winter to spring, and minima in summer to fall. The amplitude and timing of the seasonal cycle are variable, especially on the eastern Bering Sea shelf. SSS variability recorded by both saildrone, and satellite instruments provide unprecedented insights into short-term oceanic processes including sea ice melting, wind-driven currents during weather events, and river plumes etc. In particular, the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite demonstrates encouraging skills in capturing the freshening signals induced by spring sea ice melting. The Yukon River plume is another source of intense SSS variability. Surface wind forcing plays an essential role in controlling the horizontal movement of plume water and thereby shaping the SSS seasonal cycle in local regions.

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