What am I watching?

September 24, 2014


Reblogged from The Art in Science:

NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio produced this video demonstrating how the earths tides ebb and flow around the world. It doesn’t include narration or annotation because, they explain, ‘The goal was to use ocean flow data to create a simple, visceral experience’.

The visualization shows ocean surface currents around the world during the period from June 2005 through December 2007 – these figures are plotted into a computer that takes in shed loads of data and outputs pretty things like this – I love when computers do that. The computational model is called Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean, Phase II (ECCO2 for short).

It can calculate ocean flow at all depths but this particular video shows only surface flows. NASA describe it as a ‘high resolution model of the global ocean and sea-ice. ECCO2 attempts to model the oceans and sea ice to increasingly accurate resolutions that begin to resolve ocean eddies and other narrow-current systems which transport heat and carbon in the oceans’.

The dark areas under the ocean  show the the undersea bathymetry (basically the opposite of topography). The bathymetry and land topography are exaggerated to enhance the contrast – bathymetry by 20 times and topography by 40 times.


  1. People with no business in the ocean may have difficulty understanding how much movement is involved both above and below. The ocean is nothing like the land. Every molecule moves every second of the day.
    We used to wire our remote camera with a coat hanger so we could could ‘hook’ the cable that anchored the sea mine to the bottom and then use it to hold on as we slid the cameras up to look at the mine. I always thought this was a pointless exercise though since I knew what it was already and didn’t need TV telling me. It was cool though. The bottom currents out of sight and unseen far below, moved pretty fast. They moved faster than the motors that propelled our little rover which is why it went to work with a coat hanger wired to its nose.

    • How cool. The video makers did say they only attempted to approximate surface currents – for just the reason you explained.

  2. … a computer that takes in shed loads of data and outputs pretty things like this…

    A “shed load?” Heh. Gotta remember that the next time I’m in mixed company or around tender lil ears. OTOH, there’s ALWAYS the GIGO phenomenon, which one also sees a lot of, sometimes in the strangest places.

    All that said: this is brilliant. The Gulf Stream sure does dawdle a lot on its way to Britain, doesn’t it?

    • This is the kind of thing I could watch all day.

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