NASA has released the first full year of validated ocean surface salinity data from the agency’s Aquarius instrument aboard the Aquarius/SAC-D spacecraft. The data cover the period from Dec. 2011 through Dec. 2012. Red colors represent areas of high salinity, while blue shades represent areas of low salinity. Among the prominent salinity features visible in this view are the large area of highly saline water across the North Atlantic. This area, the saltiest anywhere in the open ocean, is analogous to deserts on land, where little rainfall and much evaporation occur. Aquarius is a focused effort to measure ocean surface salinity and will provide the global view of salinity variability needed for climate studies. The mission is a collaboration between NASA and the Space Agency of Argentina (Comisión Nacional de Actividades Espaciales).
The colorful images chronicle the seasonal stirrings of our salty world: Pulses of freshwater gush from the Amazon River’s mouth; an invisible seam divides the salty Arabian Sea from the fresher waters of the Bay of Bengal; a large patch of freshwater appears in the eastern tropical Pacific in the winter. These and other changes in ocean salinity patterns are revealed by the first full year of surface salinity data captured by NASA’s Aquarius instrument.