Visualization: Ocean currents

A couple days ago I shared some research indicating that some of the heat absorbed due to the loss of Arctic sea ice is pooling mid-column under the arctic ocean. One of the questions that came up was – how can wind drive sub-surface currents? I think it helps if you can see all the currents as connected, so if the wind creates a surface current, the momentum of those vast amounts of water can help push it down when it reaches the fringes of the ice melt. This is the animation that runs in my head when I’m thinking about the oceans, so I figured I’d share it for those that might find it useful. Note: No sound or text in the video, description below the fold. 

The video shows a three-dimensional computer rendering of the Earth. The seafloor is visible as the video zooms in, showing a somewhat distorted and spiky elevation map Large, cylindrical arrows are moving through the water to show the path of the ocean currents. The “camera” follows the arrows North and East up the Gulf Stream to the Arctic where they dive down to run South and East nearer the bottom of the ocean. The current then runs down toward Africa, where it turns and moves under the surface current, to run down the east coast of South America to Antarctica. There it turns, flows along the bottom a little ways out from Antarctica, arcing around the frozen continent. When it reaches Australia, the current rises, and loops onto the surface in the Indian Ocean before returning to continue the loop around Antarctica, this time on the surface. Throughout the video, there are smaller arrows that occasionally branch off to show the lesser currents. Overall, the video gives the impression of constant, complex motion over the whole planet. The oceans are part of the same system, flowing in sync, (at least for now).

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