A third factor that drives currents is thermohaline circulation - a process driven by density differences in water due to temperature (thermo) and salinity (haline) in different parts of the ocean. Oceanic currents are driven by tides, winds, and differences in water density. Winds drive currents that are at or near the ocean's surface. These are called "tidal currents." Surface water then moves in to replace the sinking water, creating a current. Subscribers get more award-winning coverage of advances in science & technology. Turbidity current is caused when the density of water is increased by sediment. We use cookies to personalise content and ads, to provide social media features and to analyse our traffic. In very simplified form, water moving into the polar regions gets cold enough to freeze into ice, leaving its share of salt behind; this makes the underlying water saltier, which in turn makes it denser. As it flows farther away from the flame and cools, the now-denser fluid slows and sinks back down. A large movement of water in one general direction is a current. A global “conveyor belt” is set in motion when dense water forms in the North Atlantic, sinks, moves south, circulates around Antarctica and then moves northward to the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic basins. But effects from changes in the conveyor belt's circulation can be felt much more rapidly. Mix two teaspoons of dried thyme (or other dried leaf spices) in with the vegetable oil in the baking dish. The easiest way to make water in the desert is through condensation. Weird & Wacky, Copyright © 2020 HowStuffWorks, a division of InfoSpace Holdings, LLC, a System1 Company. Deep-ocean currents are driven by differences in the water's density, which is controlled by temperature (cold water is denser than warm water) and salinity (salty water is denser than freshwater).

Introduction Salinity The vegetable oil and dried thyme leaves mixture made in this activity can be composted or disposed of in the trash (but should not be poured down a drain). At the same time, while the fluid just above the flame moves upward, nearby fluid at the bottom of the dish moves inward, toward the flame to replace the rising fluid—and thus a current is created. On a surface that can handle vegetable oil, fill the Pyrex baking dish about half full with vegetable oil. Before you light the candle, make sure the mugs stably support the baking dish and that the candle, when lit, will not be too close to the bottom of the dish. ), Lighter or matches (Have an adult assist handling the lit candle and lighter or matches. Wait for the water to condense into the mug or cup. Explore our digital archive back to 1845, including articles by more than 150 Nobel Prize winners. Materials, Observations and results You consent to our cookies if you continue to use our website. Have an adult help light the candle and place it back underneath the baking dish, between the two mugs. Thermal Convection and Viscosity of a Fluid, from L. W. Braile at Purdue University As ice forms when the water freezes, freshwater is removed from the ocean (it has turned into ice), making the ocean water saltier. Have you ever wondered what causes these important currents? Because warmer fluid is less dense than cooler fluid, in this activity the fluid heated just above the flame should be less dense than that farther away from the flame.

This movement within a fluid created by less dense matter rising and denser matter sinking is called convection, and is the basis for the global “conveyor belt” of ocean currents. Heat Stir thoroughly to distribute the flakes of thyme. Currents: The Global Conveyor Belt, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. To understand the deep-ocean currents, it's easiest to look first at Earth's polar regions. Ocean currents For example, the Gulf Stream (a warm current that flows up from the Gulf of Mexico into the North Atlantic Ocean) likely makes northwestern Europe much warmer than it would otherwise likely be. Density Currents are found in rivers, ponds, marshes and even swimming pools. Place the baking dish on top of the two ceramic mugs. Did you see the dried thyme leaves move quickly upward when above the flame, then travel horizontally out to the side and slowly fall back down? Currents can be temporary or long-lasting. Few bodies of water have the intricate system of currents that oceans do, though. The strongest currents shape Earth’s global climate patterns (and even local weather conditions) by moving heat around the world. Watch the vegetable oil and flakes of thyme in the baking dish from the side. A second factor that drives ocean currents is wind. In this science activity you will model the behavior of these “rivers” of warm and cold water within the ocean to find out how temperature affects the direction and speed of the currents. When used in association with water, the term "current" describes the motion of the water. Winds drive currents near coastal areas on a localized scale, and in the open ocean on a global scale.

This conveyor belt moves lots of water—it is a huge circulation pattern that transports about 100 times more water than the Amazon River! How does the varying density of the ocean's waters create the global currents? When sediment increases the density of the water, it falls to the bottom, and then follows the form of the land. The speed and direction (velocity) of currents can be measured and recorded. Cover the hole with plastic wrap, seal the edges with dirt, and place a stone in the center of the plastic wrap. When used in association with water, the term "current" describes the motion of the water. Ocean Currents: Modeling the “Global Conveyor Belt” in Your Kitchen, from Science Buddies © 2020 Scientific American, a Division of Springer Nature America, Inc. Support our award-winning coverage of advances in science & technology. Watch the vegetable oil in the baking dish for at least one minute. Surface Currents. Cleanup One is the rise and fall of the tides, which is driven by the gravitational attraction of the sun and moon on Earth's oceans. Consequently, the less-dense fluid just above the flame should move upward. An ocean science study from Science Buddies, Key concepts When speaking of water, the word current refers to the motion of the water. More to explore Tides create a current in the oceans, near the shore, and in bays and estuaries along the coast. Currents are essential for maintaining the existing balance of life on Earth, but they can be deadly as well. These currents are generally measured in meters per second or in knots (1 knot = 1.15 miles per hour or 1.85 kilometers per hour). Some currents you may be familiar with are the motion of rainwater as it flows down the street, or the motion of the water in a creek, stream, or river flowing from higher elevation to lower elevation. At high latitudes, this water cools and sinks – releasing its heat to the atmosphere and making for moderate winter climates in places like England. Fluids (Depending on the exact size of baking dish you are using, this may be a little more or less than three cups of oil). Tidal currents are the only type of currents that change in a very regular pattern and can be predicted for future dates. The cold water is now denser, due to its lower temperature and the additional salt, so it sinks toward the ocean bottom.

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