This paper examines the role of atmospheric forcing in modifying the pathways of riverine water on the Laptev Sea shelf, using summer-to-winter hydrographic surveys from 2007-2009. Over the two consecutive winter seasons of 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 in the area of the winter coastal polynya, our data clearly link winter surface salinity fields to the previous summer conditions, with substantially different winter salinity patterns preconditioned by summer atmospheric forcing. In the summer of 2007 dominant along-shore westerly winds in the cyclonic regime force the Lena River runoff to flow eastward. In contrast, in the summer of 2008 dominant along-shore easterly winds over the East Siberian Sea and on-shore northerly winds over the Laptev Sea in the anticyclonic regime lock the riverine water in the vicinity of the Lena Delta. Over the coastal polynya area in the southeastern Laptev Sea these patterns precondition a surface salinity difference of 8-16 psu between the winters of 2008 and 2009. Overall, this indicates a residence time of at least half a year for riverine water on the Laptev Sea shelf. Future climate change associated with enhanced summer cyclonicity over the eastern Arctic may turn more riverine water eastward along the eastern Siberian coast, resulting in weaker vertical density stratification over the Laptev Sea shelf with possible impact on the efficiency of vertical mixing and polynya dense water production.