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Currents: water masses in motion

Both the atmosphere and the oceans transport warm from short latitudes close to the equator to high latitudes near the poles. Cool air and water currents make the return pilgrimage from high latitudes earlier towards the equator. For the atmosphere, this circulation that worldwide redistributes warm is completed by winds; because that the ocean, that is accomplished by currents. In the most basic sense, a current is a an ar of water the moves much more rapidly than its surroundings. There space surface s currents and deep ocean currents. We will certainly learn around both here. The move of warm from equator to poles is not spread uniformly over the world – that is concentrated in the major ocean currents. The strongest and most renown surface s currents space the Gulf Stream, the travels indigenous the Caribbean Sea, follow me the East coastline of north America and across the Atlantic ocean to Europe, and also the Kuroshio Current in the north Pacific s off the East shore of Asia.

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In this lesson we will research these currents andwill learn around the pressures responsible for their movement.

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Global Atmospheric Circulation (click picture to enlarge)


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Global s Currents (click image to enlarge)

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Ben Franklin"s map of the Gulf Stream, circa 1786 AVHRR imagery that the Gulf Stream, 01 January 1985 (click on the photo to discover more)

Currents are created by physics forces

Ocean surface ar currents are resulted in by:

Sun"s energy

The oceans and also atmosphere receive more energy from the sun at short latitudes (closer come the equator) and receive less power near the poles. The sunlight heats the oceans and also atmosphere developing winds. As soon as the winds punch over the oceans, they suffer friction due to the s surface roughness. This frictional communication results in transfer of power to the sea surface and produces waves and also currents.

Flow over and around topographical obstacles

Flow of s waters over undersea mountains and valleys additionally produces currents.

Deep s currents (also well-known as Thermohaline Circulation) are brought about by:

The density of sea water varies around the world due to distinctions in temperature and also salinity. Surface water is cook by the sun, and warm water is less dense than cold water. Similarly, new water is less thick than braided water. At northern latitudes, surface water is cooled by very cold air. This cool water deserve to becomes denser than the basic water bring about it come sink. The sinking and transport of large masses of cool water provides rise to the thermohaline circulation, i beg your pardon is thrust by thickness gradients due to variations in temperature and salinity.

The earth’s rotation also influences deep ocean currents

In general, wind-driven currents overcome the top ocean, and thermohaline circulation cd driver the motion of the deep ocean. exactly how ocean currents are figured out in satellite imagery

Ocean surface ar currents that room warmer 보다 the neighboring water they may have actually a thermal signature, that have the right to be watched in (Advanced very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) imagery. Relying on their thermal contrast (the temperature difference between the 2 water masses) ocean surface currents have the right to have a strong or weak thermal signature. S surface currents through a sufficiently strong thermal contrast, deserve to be conveniently detected in sea surface temperature (SST) measurements, e.g. Native AVHRR or one-of-a-kind Sensor Microwave/Imagery(SSM/I). Relying on wind conditions, heat currents can likewise be distinguished in synthetic Aperture Radar( SAR) imagery, yet this is a much more subtle effect.

Altimeters attain extremely an exact measurements that the street from the satellite’s place in orbit come the earth’s surface. These an exact distance measurements permit us to calculation sea surface height, which have the right to be used to identify regions that warm and cold water (since heat water expands, it ‘sits’ slightly higher than cold water), as well as to find topographic features. The image listed below shows data acquired by the TOPEX/Poseidon satellite. This image uses shade to show inferred ocean topography v arrows denote the speed and also direction of ocean currents. Notification how the currents relocate clockwise around higher regions in the ocean in the north hemisphere. This is because of the Coriolis effect.

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Satellite picture showing an international ocean currents(click ~ above the image to learn more)

Current influence local seaside climates and ecosystems

Upwelling describes a process that is usual along continent coastlines and at the equator. In coastal environments, winds coming turn off the land push the surface layers the water away from shore, producing a void in ~ the surface. Cold, nutrient-rich water from under the surface layers rushes come the surface ar along the coast, pour it until it is full this void. Cool water upwelling deserve to be readily seen in SST data, and can be useful for locating an excellent fishing locations, because the fish feed on the nutrients discovered within the cold water. At the equator, a different process results in upwelling the cold water. In this instance, water currents top top either next of the equator are moving in the opposite directions because of planetary rotation and also the Coriolis effect.

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Together these the opposite currents rush previous one an additional they "peel back" the surface ar of the ocean, creating a void for deeper water to rush into and also take that is place.