Sea surface salinity response to tropical cyclones based on satellite observations

Jingru Sun, Gabriel Vecchi, Brian Soden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Multi-year records of satellite remote sensing of sea surface salinity (SSS) provide an opportunity to investigate the climatological characteristics of the SSS response to tropical cyclones (TCs). In this study, the influence of TC winds, rainfall and preexisting ocean stratification on SSS evolution is examined with multiple satellite-based and in-situ data. Global storm-centered composites indicate that TCs act to initially freshen the ocean surface (due to precipitation), and subsequently salinify the surface, largely through vertical ocean processes (mixing and upwelling), although regional hydrography can lead to local departure from this behavior. On average, on the day a TC passes, a strong SSS decrease is observed. The fresh anomaly is subsequently replaced by a net surface salinification, which persists for weeks. This salinification is larger on the right (left)-hand side of the storm motion in the Northern (Southern) Hemisphere, consistent with the location of stronger turbulent mixing. The influence of TC intensity and translation speed on the ocean response is also examined. Despite having greater precipitation, stronger TCs tend to produce longer-lasting, stronger and deeper salinification especially on the right-hand side of the storm motion. Faster moving TCs are found to have slightly weaker freshening with larger area coverage during the passage, but comparable salinification after the passage. The ocean haline response in four basins with different climatological salinity stratification reveals a significant impact of vertical stratification on the salinity response during and after the passage of TCs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number420
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


  • Aquarius
  • Argo
  • SMAP
  • SMOS
  • Sea surface salinity
  • Tropical cyclone
  • Upper ocean response


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