Earth’s Van Gogh Oceans

by Nancy Atkinson on April 10, 2012

I was traveling the day this video was released, so missed posting it earlier. If you haven’t seen it yet, this animation of ocean surface currents is just mesmerizing. It shows ocean currents from June 2005 to December 2007, created with data from NASA satellites. In the video you can see how bigger currents like the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean and the Kuroshio in the Pacific carry warm waters across thousands of kilometers at speeds greater than six kilometers per hour 4 mph), as well as seeing how thousands of other ocean create slow-moving, circular pools called eddies. The entire visualization is reminiscent of Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” painting.

This video was created for a project called Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean, (ECCO) and the data are being used to quantify the ocean’s role in the global carbon cycle, to understand the recent evolution of the polar oceans, to monitor time-evolving heat, water, and chemical exchanges within and between different components of the Earth system, and for many other science applications. NASA says “the visualization offers a realistic study in both the order and the chaos of the circulating waters that populate Earth’s oceans.”

Data used by the ECCO project include: sea surface height from NASA’s Topex/Poseidon, Jason-1, and Ocean Surface Topography Mission/Jason-2 satellite altimeters; gravity from the NASA/German Aerospace Center Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment mission; surface wind stress from NASA’s QuikScat mission; sea surface temperature from the NASA/Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer-EOS; sea ice concentration and velocity data from passive microwave radiometers; and temperature and salinity profiles from shipborne casts, moorings and the international Argo ocean observation system.

Source: JPL


Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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