Salinity data from SMOS show that warm, salty water being carried north by the Gulf Stream converges with colder, less-salty water transported southward along North America’s east coast by the Labrador Current. This convergence causes strong lateral gradients, leading to mixing processes between the water masses off Cape Hatteras.
SMOS observations are able to delineate and monitor the resulting eddies that have been ‘pinched off’ from the current and form little parcels of warm and salty water in the Labrador Current, and colder, fresher water in the Gulf Stream.
SMOS is able to monitor the dynamics of this process thanks to its high resolution and frequent revisit time. This is giving scientists new insight into how salt is exchanged across current boundaries – a key to better understanding the conveyor belt of global oceanic circulation.