Salty Anomalies Forced by Central American Gap Winds: Aquarius Observations

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Semyon A Grodsky, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, United States, James Carton, University of Maryland College Park, College Park, MD, United States and Abderruhim Bentamy, IFREMER, Plouzané, France
Although upwelling normally doesn’t have direct impact on the sea surface salinity (SSS), we present observational evidence of upwelling-induced SSS patterns off the Pacific Central American coast. This area is characterized by stable near-surface salinity stratification that is produced by the mixed layer dilution by local rainfall. Here the fresh and warm mixed layer is periodically disrupted by the gap wind-induced uplifts of colder and saltier water. Aquarius SSS data capture these high SSS events. In boreal winter when the intense gap winds are frequent, two tongues of anomalously salty water develop off the Gulfs of Tehuantepec and Papagayo. During that season the average SSS in the meridionally oriented Tehuantepec tongue is about 0.4 psu saltier than background SSS. The zonally elongated Papagayo tongue stands out even more strongly, being 1 to 2 psu saltier than SSS in the neighboring Panama Bight. The spatial locations and orientations of these salty tongues closely correspond to the locations and orientations of the cool SST tongues suggesting they have similar governing mechanisms.