Surface Currents

I’m Jim Fiorendino, your host for On the Ocean.

As a part of the Texas A&M University Research Experience for Undergraduates Observing the Ocean program, student researcher Madeleine Neuhaus has been working under the direction of mentor Dr. Yige Zhang on understanding the formation of surface currents in the Pacific Ocean 5 to 15 million years before the present. Surface currents in the ocean are important as they absorb and release heat and carbon dioxide. The release of heat maintains the temperate climate of high-latitude countries such as England, and the absorption of carbon dioxide helps remove this gas from the atmosphere.

Researchers at Texas A&M are attempting to learn more about past ocean surface currents by analyzing sediment cores for single-celled organisms called foraminifera. By mapping the locations of these organisms in the past, it is possible to deduce how and when the surface currents in the Pacific Ocean formed. Understanding the formation of surface currents and climate in the past will help to improve models that predict future climate and surface currents on Earth.

Thank you for listening; this has been On the Ocean, a program made possible by the Department of Oceanography and a production of KAMU-FM on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station. For more information and links, please go to and click On the Ocean.




Figure 1. Global a) latent plus sensible heat flux (in W m-2, positive, atmosphere to ocean heat flux and b) CO2 flux (in mol m-2 year-1, positive, ocean to atmosphere) (Imawaki et al., 2013). Blue areas in a) indicate areas of heat loss from ocean to atmosphere and blue areas in b) indicate CO2 removal from the atmosphere.

Figure Reference:

Imawaki, S., Bower, A. S., Beal, L., and Qiu, B., 2013, Western Boundary Currents: International Geophysics, v. 103, p. 305-338.

Contributing Professor: Dr. Yige Zhang

Script Author: Madeleine Neuhaus