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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

One Big 'Lava Lamp'

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Sunday, December 22, 2013/Categories: natural history, photography, environment

Some time back, I was invited into a studio while a good friend was recording his latest project with some of finest Nashville bluegrass and acoustic musicians. It was great fun. Once released, their music became popular and the basis for a national tour. Decked out around the soundboard, sofas, and recording gear were Lava Lamps, the novelty toy popular in the 1960's, bubbling away in various colors. I guess they provided the musicians a bit of relaxation and humor during the sessions.

Now an image depicting a real 'lava lamp' was photographed in the Atlantic Ocean. The Landsat 8 camera captured an image of the Atlantic Gulfstream approximately 300 miles east of South Carolina in infrared. The gulfstream is part of the global ocean "conveyor belt" moving water and heat from the equator toward the poles. Like the toy lamps that cycle heated oils and wax, the ocean current moves water at varying temperatures. High resolution infrared instruments allow the differentiation of temperatures in the wider ocean patterns. In the new image, temperatures range from 64-70F (18-21C) with coolest temperatures in purple and warmest in white.

Ben Franklin is considered the person who discovered the gulfstream and included it in maps back in his day. Franklin knew the ocean current was a big deal but not just how big since it influenced continents and climates on both sides of the Atlantic.

Ben Franklin Map (credit: Library of Congress)            Atlantic Gulfstream (credit: NASA)

As one of our earliest scientists and inventors, I bet Ben would have loved having a Lava Lamp on his desk.


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