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4 June, 2000

Current Events

June 4, Sunday

Here's a riddle for you:

How is the ocean like a loaf of bread?

To find the answer to the riddle, you first have to know about an instrument called the Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler. That's quite a mouthful, so scientists call it the ADCP for short.

The ADCP shows scientists how different currents in the ocean move. It also tells them how fast the currents are moving. It doesn't only track the currents on the surface of the ocean, though. The ADCP can also tell how fast and in which direction a current is moving at any depth.

With the data they have collected, scientists have made an interesting discovery. They have found there are actually different layers of water in the ocean. These layers stack on top of each other like slices of bread in a loaf. Each layer has its own characteristics; some are saltier than others, some are warmer or cooler, faster or slower. The most amazing difference, though, is that each layer can be traveling in a different direction than the layers above and below it!

Understanding how ocean currents move is important to people for a lot of different reasons. For centuries, fishermen and sailors have depended on their knowledge of currents to find good fishing grounds or the best routes for sailing. But scientists are just now beginning to understand that ocean currents affect a lot of other things as well.

Ocean currents influence weather patterns all over the world. It's hard to imagine how currents off the coast of South America could cause droughts in Kansas. Yet that is exactly what scientists are finding out as they study data from the ADCP and other experiments.

Figuring out how it all works is like putting together a giant puzzle. Each scientist holds a piece of the puzzle. Working together as a team, scientists help us better understand how the world works.

Riddle of the day:

What sound does a bubble make? To find out, click on Janice's page:

Janice’s Entry Today.

DAILY DATA LOG (6/04/00):

Air Temperature: 36 degrees F

Clear skies, sunny

Latitude 52N

Longitude 52W

Ocean currents influence weather all around the world.

This graph shows the direction of various currents in the water. It's hard to see, but it is made of many tiny arrows that show the currents' directions. The different colors show the different layers in the water.

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