Satellite detection of an unusual intrusion of salty slope water into a marginal sea: Using SMAP to monitor Gulf of Maine inflows

TitleSatellite detection of an unusual intrusion of salty slope water into a marginal sea: Using SMAP to monitor Gulf of Maine inflows
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsGrodsky, SA, Vandemark, D, Feng, H, Levin, J
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Type of ArticleJournal Article
KeywordsGulf of Maine, satellite salinity, Sea level, Temperature

Satellite salinity from the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission and in situ observations are used to diagnose the source of a significant increase in warm and salty surface water entering the Gulf of Maine (GoM) in the winter of 2017–2018. SMAP salinity anomaly data indicate that this event was related to a salty feature that moved along the northwestern Atlantic shelf break from near the Grand Banks southwest towards the GoM over eight months before entering the Gulf in December 2017 to January 2018. Satellite altimetry, sea surface salinity, and sea surface temperature data suggest that, before entering the GoM, the salty feature interacted with Gulf Stream meanders and eddies several times, helping to sustain the water mass. It is likely that feature interactions with a warm Gulf Stream meander took place in the fall of 2017, helping to advect high salinity water onto the shelf and then into the GoM as a surface trapped feature in late fall 2017. According to satellite salinity data, this episode led to significant salinification (about 1 psu) in the northeastern GoM. Interior GoM buoy salinity data agree in showing four months of increased GoM salinity of the upper 50 m starting in November 2017. Buoy T/S analyses characterize this surface inflow as modified warm Atlantic slope water, typically seen only below 100 m and previously unobserved at the surface in the 15-year buoy record. This new salty water circulated cyclonically along the GoM coastline and mixed into the deeper Gulf through February 2018. Its intrusion may have also enhanced the cyclonic winter circulation in the Gulf. GoM surface salinity anomalies ended abruptly in early March 2018 coincident with the occurrence of a bomb cyclone and its associated strong upper ocean mixing.


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