NASA has released two videos depicting the ever constant motion of our planet’s oceans, capturing the movement of tens of thousands of ocean currents. The high-definition visualisation is available in 3-minute and 20-minute videos, and was developed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The visualization is based on a synthesis of a numerical model with observational data over the period from June 2005 to December 2007.
The model itself was created under a NASA project called Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean, or ECCO, a joint project between NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge. ECCO uses advanced mathematical tools to combine satellite and in-ocean observations with the MIT numerical ocean model to obtain realistic descriptions of how ocean circulation evolves over time.
The visualisations are really quite spectacular. Watching the current follow the equator so precisely, wiggling in and out and then dissolving into barely visible lines is quite amazing, and the massive border of currents around Antarctica is beautiful.
ECCO model-data syntheses 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.
Data used by the ECCO project include: sea surface height from JPL’s Topex/Poseidon, Jason-1, and Ocean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM)/Jason-2 satellite altimeters; gravity from the JPL/German Aerospace Center Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission; surface wind stress from JPL’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: NASA JPL