Ever dipped a toe in salt water? Then you know that ocean waters are constantly in motion.
But to get a picture of how ocean currents flow around the world, you have to step back a bit. And that’s the idea behind “Perpetual Ocean,” above, an animated video released by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. The video shows that ocean currents don’t just move in straight or even curving patterns, but that they swirl to create elaborate whorls. The patterns actually look a bit like the starry night in the Van Gogh painting (see below).
The video was produced with the help of ECCO2, a computational modeling project developed by NASA and the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, Calif. It shows ocean surface currents around the world during June 2005 through October 2007. There’s no narration. The goal is simply to give viewers a visceral sense of the currents.
How well does it succeed? Have a look.