Pictured is a small portion of the Gulf Stream – about 500 km east of Charleston, South Carolina – as it appears in infrared imagery. Data for this image was acquired on 9 April 2013 by the Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS) on the Landsat 8 satellite. TIRS observes in wavelengths of 10,9 micrometres and 12,0 micrometres.
In the image, water temperatures range from 18 degrees to 21,25 degrees Celsius, with cooler temperatures in purple and the warmest nearly white. Note how the Gulf Stream is not a uniform band, but instead has finer streams and pockets of warmer and colder water.
The Gulf Stream is an important part of the global ocean conveyor belt that moves water and heat across the North Atlantic from the equator toward the poles. It is one of the strongest currents on Earth, and one of the most studied. Its discovery is often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, though sailors likely knew about the current long before they had a name for it.
Credit: Nasa Earth Observatory