Earth  ID: 10953

Swirling Seas

As Earth hurtles around its axis at 1,000 miles per hour, its rotation sets the seas in motion and generates winds that bear down on the ocean surface. The fast-moving currents, swirling eddies and powerful drifts that result appear at first glance as a disorderly jumble of flows. Yet their movements are directed by enormous, rotating currents, called gyres, which slowly circulate water around the planet's major ocean basins. The visualizations below combine NASA satellite data with field measurements to present a modeled view of surface flows and gyres in the Northern Hemisphere from March 2007 to March 2008. Observe the dramatic difference in strength between westward and eastward currents as they hook clockwise in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. And notice how westward currents explode into spiraling, turbulent flows off the eastern coasts of Asia and North America.

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Story Credits

Lead Visualizer/Animator:
Greg Shirah (NASA/GSFC)

Horace Mitchell (NASA/GSFC)
Eric Sokolowsky (GST)

Michael Starobin (HTSI)

Lead Scientists:
Hong Zhang (UCLA)
Dimitris Menemenlis (NASA/JPL CalTech)

Lead Writer:
Patrick Lynch (Wyle Information Systems)

Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

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