The water of the ocean surface moves in a regular pattern called surface ocean currents. the currents are named. In this map, warm currents are shown in red and cold currents are shown in blue.
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Windows to the Universe
Surface Ocean Currents
The water at the ocean surface is moved by powerful wind. The wind is able to move the top 400 meters of the ocean. This moving water is called surface ocean currents.
Surface ocean currents form large circular patterns called gyres. Gyres flow clockwise in Northern Hemisphere oceans and counterclockwise in Southern Hemisphere oceans.
These currents are not all the same. Some currents are deep and narrow. Other currents are shallow and wide. Some move quickly while others move more slowly. Some currents are very large. The Gulf Stream, a surface current in the North Atlantic, carries 4500 times more water than the Mississippi River.
The currents carry heat from place to place. The Sun warms water at the equator more than it does at the high latitude polar regions. The heat travels in surface currents to higher latitudes. A current that brings warmth into a high latitude region will make that region’s climate less chilly.
Surface ocean currents can create eddies, swirling loops of water, as they flow. Surface ocean currents can also affect upwelling in many places.
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