Local currents swirl sediments and phytoplankton blooms in this satellite image of the Tarut Bay in Saudi Arabia. Such blooms typically occur where nutrients are being washed together, thereby creating a kind of natural flow visualization of currents and matter flow in the ocean. (Photo credit: NASA Earth Observatory)
Researchers used computational models of ocean currents to produce this video visualizing worldwide ocean surface currents from June 2005 through December 2007. Dark patterns under the ocean are representative of ocean depths and have been exaggerated to 40x; land topography is exaggerated to 20x. Notice the wide variety of behaviors exhibited in the simulation: some regions experience strong recirculation and eddy production, while others remain relatively calm and unmoving. Occasionally strong currents sweep long lines across the open waters, carrying with them warmth and nutrients that encourage phytoplankton blooms and other forms of ocean life. (Video credit: NASA; submitted by Jason S)
Mixing of surface waters with deeper ocean currents brings together the minerals and nutrients used by phytoplankton, resulting in gorgeous swirls of color in the ocean. These phytoplankton blooms are most common in the spring and summer, and while lovely, can be harmful to other marine life, either through the production of toxins or by depleting the waters of oxygen. Because the phytoplankton move according to the wind and waves, they can also form a sort of natural flow visualization. (Photo credit: ESA)
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