Significant salinity anomalies have been observed in the Arctic Ocean surface layer during the last decade. Our study is based on an extensive gridded dataset of winter salinity in the upper 50 m layer of the Arctic Ocean for the periods 1950–1993 and 2007–2012, obtained from ~20 000 profiles. We investigate the interannual variability of the salinity fields, identify predominant patterns of anomalous behavior and leading modes of variability, and develop a statistical model for the prediction of surface-layer salinity. The statistical model is based on linear regression equations linking the principal components of surface-layer salinity obtained through empirical orthogonal function decomposition with environmental factors, such as atmospheric circulation, river runoff, ice processes and water exchange with neighboring oceans. Using this model, we obtain prognostic fields of the surface-layer salinity for the winter period 2013–2014. The prognostic fields generated by the model show tendencies of surface-layer salinification, which were also observed in previous years. Although the used data are proprietary and have gaps, they provide the most spatiotemporally detailed observational resource for studying multidecadal variations in basin-wide Arctic salinity. Thus, there is community value in the identification, dissemination and modeling of the principal modes of variability in this salinity record.