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8 Photos of The Ocean Like You've Never Seen It Before

These images highlight the currents that swirl through Earth's oceans, bringing life to barren seas and whisking away animals to parts unknown.


You may have heard of a few major ocean currents like the Gulf Stream off the U.S. East Coast or the East Australian Current (that's the ocean highway that Marlin used in the movie Finding Nemo)

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But there's way more going on in the sea than just a few big-name currents. Every ocean on Earth is a constantly swirling concoction of currents and counter-currents.

One of the best ways to measure these movements is by tracking the water temperature at the sea surface. And it turns out that if you map this data (taken by infrared sensors) onto satellite images of the Earth, the results are truly spectacular.

The Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet off the southern tip of Africa. Image by SPL/mediadrumworld.com

The middle of the Pacific Ocean Equatorial currents swirl across the Pacific Ocean. Image by SPL/mediadrumworld.com

Eddies and whorls break off of the Gulf Stream as it jets across the Atlantic Ocean. Image by SPL/mediadrumworld.com

Sea surface temperatures are color-coded in these images: green for cooler water and yellows and reds for warmer currents. And, like the phytoplankton image from earlier this year, the turbulent, technicolor swirls look remarkably like a Van Gogh painting.

Currents from the eastern Atlantic slip through the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean. Image by SPL/mediadrumworld.com

Warm water from both the Pacific and Atlantic swirl along Central America. Image by SPL/mediadrumworld.com

But NASA and the European Space Agency don't monitor the ocean just for its artistic value. Ocean currents are extremely complex, affected by temperatures, winds, waves and even the rotation of the Earth. Understanding how they work is an important part of shipping, pollution tracking and potential renewable energy research.

The Eastern Pacific Ocean. Image by SPL/mediadrumworld.com

The Western Pacific Ocean. Image by SPL/mediadrumworld.com

The Western Atlantic Ocean. Image by SPL/mediadrumworld.com

It's a beautiful way of bringing to life the hidden chaos that rules the oceans, instead of simply showing big, static blobs of blue. And this is just on the surface! Imagine what surprises we'll discover as we continue to map more and more of our world's fascinating oceans.

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