Observe simulated ocean flows at the surface and at 2000m below the surface with these visualizations from NASA. Global ocean circulation is a complex system of ocean surface currents, deep currents, gyres, and eddies. In these visualizations, white lines indicate the flow of ocean currents over several years. Circulation patterns and eddies are clearly visible in the ocean surface currents because surface currents are relatively fast compared to deeper currents. Below the surface, the chaotic and complex motions are slower and harder to discern. A close-up view of the North Atlantic highlights the differences between the surface currents and the currents at depth. A global view shows larger patterns in ocean currents.
To view the Background Essay and Teaching Tips for this media gallery, go to Support Materials below. This resource was developed through WGBH’s Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms project, in collaboration with NASA. Click here for the full collection of resources.