IX.1 NASA Views Our Perpetually Moving Ocean

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Dimitris Menemenlis

Horace G. Mitchell

Christopher N. Hill

Gregory W. Shirah

This scientific visualization was created by Dimitris Menemenlis, research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Horace G. Mitchell, head of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) Scientific Visualization Studio (SVS), computer scientist Christopher N. Hill of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and SVS visualizer Gregory W. Shirah. It is based on a synthesis of a numerical model with observational data provided by the Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean (ECCO) project. ECCO, a collaboration between MIT and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, uses advanced mathematical tools to combine observations with the MIT numerical ocean model to obtain realistic descriptions of how ocean circulation evolves over time. These circulation estimates, which are made possible by NASA Advanced Supercomputing resources at the Ames Research Center, are among the largest computations of their kind ever undertaken. ECCO circulation estimates are being used to quantify the ocean’s role in the global carbon cycle, to understand the recent evolution of the polar oceans, to monitor time-evolving heat, water, and chemical exchanges within and between different components of the Earth system, and to address other scientific questions. In the particular model-data synthesis used for this visualization, only the larger, ocean basin-wide scales have been adjusted to fit observations. Smaller-scale ocean currents are free to evolve on their own according to the computer model's equations. To experience this unforgettable view of oceanic circulation in action, go to http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/perpetual-ocean.html.


Menemenlis, Dimitris, Horace G. Mitchell, Christopher N. Hill, and Gregory W. Shirah. 2011. NASA View Our Perpetually Moving Ocean. Greenbelt, MD. Courtesy of the Scientific Visualization Studio at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. In “9th Iteration (2013): Science Maps Showing Trends and Dynamics,” Places & Spaces: Mapping Science, edited by Katy Börner and Todd N. Theriault. http://scimaps.org.

NASA. 2012. "NASA Views Our Perpetual Ocean." Accessed December 2, 2013. http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/perpetual-ocean.html.

Acknowledgements: This exhibit is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. IIS-0238261, CHE-0524661, IIS-0534909 and IIS-0715303, the James S. McDonnell Foundation; Thomson Reuters; the Cyberinfrastructure for Network Science Center, University Information Technology Services, and the School of Library and Information Science, all three at Indiana University. Some of the data used to generate the science maps is from the Web of Science by Thomson Reuters and Scopus by Elsevier. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.