I’m not sure what to make of this, but it sure is fun to look at. Click through to this Ocean Surface Currents Map website, and you’ll see this image is actually animated. It just covers areas around the United States, but still gives you a very good idea of just how dynamic the ocean really is.
Off the East and Gulf Coasts anyway. What most surprised me is how little current action there is off the West Coast.
The big question, of course, is whether it’s useful or not, and I’m not sure it is. The map on its face purports to be a real-time forecast of what’s actually going on out there, but when I compare it to official forecasts there seems to be little correlation.
For example, here’s a close-up showing current contours between New England and Bermuda for 0600 hrs on November 22, the day I first stumbled across the site:
You see there’s a nice fat meander in the Gulf Stream, and if you were sailing from Newport to Bermuda you’d want to be very sure you caught a ride on its southbound side.
Compare this, however, to the current forecast from the Ocean Prediction Center for the same time and date, and you see no sign of that huge meander:
These current contours normally don’t change very rapidly, so I should think the two forecasts, if at all accurate, should look fairly similar.
I checked this morning and compared images from the two sources for 0900 hours today, and again they seem to have little to do with each other:
I shot off an e-mail last week to the guys who created the site, but so far they haven’t deigned to respond. My guess is this is still in beta mode, so I wouldn’t use it for passage planning. Hopefully it may become more useful in the future.