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Oceans Aswirl

Massive eddies influence Earth's climate, marine ecosystems, even big business

2:26pm, June 9, 2003

The hallmarks of rotation are written all over the ocean. Huge currents flowing past islands and peninsulas generate enormous swirls in their wake, occasionally casting off giant whirlpools. Currents meandering across the open ocean can also shed massive, long-lasting eddies. Just as the atmosphere's large- and small-scale motions mix the air, the ocean's hierarchy of eddies blends cold waters with warm, the nutrient-rich with the nutrient-poor, and the salt-laden with fresher waters.

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