Earth’s Van Gogh Oceans

by Nancy Atkinson on April 10, 2012

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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

About 

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

Shawn Schuiteboer April 10, 2012 at 10:55 PM

I am reminded of Jupiter. It has been said.

maurizio52 April 11, 2012 at 8:34 AM

Hallo Nancy, did you hear about this letter? And, eventually, what do you think about?
March 28, 2012

The Honorable Charles Bolden, Jr.
NASA Administrator
NASA Headquarters
Washington, D.C. 20546-0001

Dear Charlie,

We, the undersigned, respectfully request that NASA and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) refrain from including unproven remarks in public releases and websites. We believe the claims by NASA and GISS, that man-made carbon dioxide is having a catastrophic impact on global climate change are not substantiated, especially when considering thousands of years of empirical data. With hundreds of well-known climate scientists and tens of thousands of other scientists publicly declaring their disbelief in the catastrophic forecasts, coming particularly from the GISS leadership, it is clear that the science is NOT settled….

Full text:
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/04/10/hansen-and-schmidt-of-nasa-giss-under-fire-engineers-scientists-astronauts-ask-nasa-administration-to-look-at-emprical-evidence-rather-than-climate-models/

Thanks and best regards.

Maurizio Rovati

zetetic elench April 11, 2012 at 1:38 PM

yes. the currents at the equator and the banding really stand out. it would have been infinitely valuable to ancient mariners to have had this data. how many perils could have been avoided! those circular currents look horrid in the mid-sea. Magellan would have been especially appreciative. an amazing leap in mapping info.

HRJ April 11, 2012 at 10:50 AM

Nice. I had missed this video too.

It would have been nicer though if temperature of the water was visualised as well. I would have loved to see how heat spreads from equator to other parts of the world through the oceans.

Aqua4U April 12, 2012 at 2:21 PM

Fascinating! It would be great to track this data for a couple decades… to see longer term patterns should they develop.

Acushla April 13, 2012 at 11:42 PM

Yes, it is the SUN causing the warmth in the oceans, the La Nina and El Nino Affecting Climate Change.

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