Sturges, Wilton Department of Oceanography, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida.
Price, James F. Department of Physical Oceanography, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
Last reviewed:April 2020
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- Surface circulation
- Wind stress
- Surface currents
- Current variability
- Deep circulation
- Marginal seas
- Mesoscale eddies
- Time and space scales
- Distribution and sources
- Eddy dynamics
- Measurement of ocean currents
- Surface measurements
- Subsurface measurements
- Geostrophic current
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
The general circulation of the ocean. The term is usually understood to include large-scale, nearly steady features, such as the Gulf Stream (Fig. 1), as well as current systems that change seasonally but are persistent from one year to the next, such as the Davidson Current, off the northwestern United States coast and the equatorial currents in the Indian Ocean. A great number of energetic motions have periods of a month or two and horizontal scales of a few hundred kilometers—a very low-frequency turbulence, collectively called eddies. Energetic motions are also concentrated near the local inertial period (24 h, at 30° latitude) and at the periods associated with tides (primarily diurnal and semidiurnal). See also: Tide; Gulf Stream
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