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The Earth turns and the ocean swirls

Jack Whitehead, in the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab he helped establish at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, sets up experiments to understand the formation of gyres or swirling, circular currents. Experiments like this can effectively simplify complicated processes down to the fundamental forces of physics that generate them. In this case, colored dyes help track the flow of distinct water masses on a rotating table, which simulates the force caused by Earth's rotation. Knowing where and why gyres form helps researchers better understand this facet of ocean circulation and, among other things, to track the movements of fish, submarines, and spilled pollutants within them.
(Photo By Tom Kleindinst, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)


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