Ocean Currents Imagery Resembles Van Gogh

Ocean Currents Imagery Resembles Van Gogh

Susan Cosier
Published: 04/05/2012

Courtesy of NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

Surging, swirling, and flowing around the planet, water moves in beautiful patterns from one ocean to the next. Images and videos, including one 20-minute HD movie, recently created by scientists show just how stunning those movements are, illustrating that our salty seas, when shown in motion, strongly resemble the night sky (as depicted by Vincent van Gogh in his painting "Starry Night," that is).

Using a model that incorporates satellite and in-situ data collected from the seas and sea ice from June 2005 through December 2007, scientists from the NASA Scientific Visualization Studio animated how the currents and eddies move. The goal, they say on their website, was “to use ocean flow data to a simple, visceral experience.”

ECCO2 (Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean, Phase 2), a joint project between MIT and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory that focuses on oceans and the part they will play in future climate change scenarios, generated the information used in the animation titled “Perpetual Ocean.”

Van Gogh, a nature lover himself, would most likely be pleased with the soothing quality of the video and the presentation of the natural environment. An exhibit, “Van Gogh Up Close,” currently on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, includes 45 paintings that depict his relationship with nature. His paintings “suggest a deep concern with representing the sensory and emotional experience of being outdoors,” reads the museum's website.

Displaying the natural world in astounding ways is talent shared by both van Gogh and the NASA scientists, it seems. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to watch the video…again.