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Global sea surface temperatures

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Credit

NASA / GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY NASA / GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption

Variation in global sea surface temperatures over the course of two years. This data was gathered between 1st January 2010 and 31st December 2011. The Multi-scale Ultra-high Resolution (MUR) dataset combines data from the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR), Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), and Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for EOS (AMSR-E) instruments, aboard several Earth-observing satellites. The data points have a resolution of one kilometre. The data show the seasonal movements of the warmest water, which shift north during the northern summer. It also reveals how the Earth's rotation affects the temperatures. The western edges of oceans are much warmer than the eastern edges, as the rotation of the Earth drives winds that push equatorial water to the west, setting up large rotational systems called gyres in the northern and southern portions of each ocean. This drives polar waters equatorwards on the eastern edges of oceans, and causes the upwelling of cold deep water there, forming highly productive regions for marine life. This process also drives the large, warm western boundary currents that carry warm water from the tropics to temperate latitudes. The Japanese Kuroshio Current and the Gulf Stream that heads northeastwards from the Gulf of Mexico are prominent here.

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