Presented at the 95th AMS MeetingThe unprecedented availability of sea surface salinity (SSS) data available from satellite measurements from Aquarius and SMOS has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of variability across a number of scales of the Earth's water cycle. However, the usefulness of these data is predicated on both a sound understanding of the uncertainty of the data, and a sound understanding of how the SSS as seen at 1 cm by a satellite-borne radiometer is related to the ocean mixed layer salinity. This problem is similar in many respects to the need of the satellite sea surface temperature (SST) community to understand the upper ocean temperature structure. To address the needs of the SSS community, a concerted data analysis approach combined with ocean modeling focused on understanding variability in the upper few meters of the ocean surface will provide insights. Here we use the unprecedented coverage of SSS data offered by Aquarius in tandem with near-surface salinity measurements available from SPURS, in situ buoys and the Argo float program and modeling analyses to better characterize and parameterize the surface salinity stratification with respect to atmospheric variability.