Video: A Swirling Visualization of the Ocean's Currents

Perpetual Ocean

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

For whatever reason things grow popular, this NASA animation--titled "Perpetual Ocean"--has been making the rounds over the past 24 hours, mesmerizing all who dare click "play." Compiled from data produced by NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Earth, Phase II (ECCO2 for short), the animation is a high-res model of global ocean and sea ice movements from June 2005 through December 2007. And it's strangely therapeutic to watch.

Designed without annotation or narration, the visualization was cobbled together as a last-minute entry for last year's SIGGRAPH computer animation festival and aimed to create a purely visceral experience of the ocean currents as they move, creating Van Gogh-esque swirls of color as the waters churn. Though ECCO2 models the water flows at all depths, this viz simply represents the surface flows. Click play, sit back, and stare. You'll be glad you did.

Download videos and still images from Goddard Space Flight Center's Scientific Visualization Studio.