From Salty to Fresh—Salinity Processes in the Upper-ocean Regional Study-2 (SPURS-2): Diagnosing the Physics of a Rainfall-Dominated Salinity Minimum Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • One of the notable features of the global ocean is that the salinity of the North Atlantic is about 1 psu higher than that of the North Pacific. This contrast is thought to be due to one of the large asymmetries in the global water cycle: the transport of water vapor by the trade winds across Central America and the lack of any comparable transport into the Atlantic from the Sahara Desert. Net evaporation serves to maintain high Atlantic salinities, and net precipitation lowers those in the Pacific. Because the effects on upper-ocean physics are markedly different in the evaporating and precipitating regimes, the next phase of research in the Salinity Processes in the Upper-ocean Regional Study (SPURS) must address a high rainfall region. It seemed especially appropriate to focus on the eastern tropical Pacific that is freshened by the water vapor carried from the Atlantic. In a sense, the SPURS-2 Pacific region will be looking at the downstream fate of the freshwater carried out of the SPURS-1 North Atlantic region. Rainfall tends to lower surface density and thus inhibit vertical mixing, leading to quite different physical structure and dynamics in the upper ocean. Here, we discuss the motivations for the location of SPURS-2 and the scientific questions we hope to address.

publication date

  • March 1, 2015