Salinity and temperature data from the Gulf of Riga, a semi-enclosed sub-basin of the Baltic Sea, were analyzed with a focus on interannual and seasonal variability. The data were compiled from measurements taken from 1973 to 1995, a period which includes the stagnation period in the Baltic Sea. Interannual and seasonal variations in the net inflow of saline water from the Baltic Proper were estimated from volume and salt conservation equations for the period 1973-90.

The basic decreasing trend, superimposed interannual variations in salinity, and interannual and seasonal temperature variations in the Gulf of Riga coincided with corresponding changes above the halocline in the Baltic Proper. Seasonal salinity variations were notable in the Gulf of Riga as compared to the Baltic Proper, where variations were negligible. Estimated annual mean inflow varied between 2,000 and 5,000 m3/s (average 3,200 m3/s), with a notable increasing trend. A simultaneous increasing trend was extracted from annual mean river flow data. Short-term fluctuations (over 4-6 years) of annual mean inflow ran opposite to the fluctuations of the magnitude of river flow. The average salinity in the Gulf of Riga increased during strong inflow and weak river flow and decreased when inflow was weak and river flow was strong. Variations in the inflow of water salinity had a minor effect on salinity variations in the Gulf of Riga. Seasonal inflow was strongest in spring and autumn and weak in winter.