NOAA and many other organizations have numerous online resources on ocean currents. The following Web pages are meant to guide educators and students to specific data and information related to content presented in the currents tutorial. Some of the Web pages listed below reside within larger Web sites. You may wish to browse these sites to examine the other online resources they have available.
Please note: The Web links provided have been checked at the time of this page's publication, but the linking sites may become outdated or non-operational over time. If you should come across a non operational link please contact NOAA Ocean Service Education at
This online tutorial presents an overview of the complex systems that govern the movement of tides and water levels, including what tides are and what causes them, the types and causes of tidal cycles, how tides vary with geography, and how tides are monitored. The tutorial includes illustrations and graphics to enhance the text.
NOAA's Tides and Currents Web Site
The NOAA Tides and Currents Web site is the home page of NOAA's Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS). This Web site is the portal to NOAA's collection of historical and real-time oceanographic and meteorological data, predictions, and forecasts including data and information about tides, water levels, currents, and weather observations.
Select the term “products” on the top navigation bar of the Web page and you will arrive at a page (http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/products) which provides terms and definitions of, and links to, the wide range of online information available through the CO-OPS Web site. The real-time and archived data are available in tabular or graphic formats.
Glossary of Tide and Current Terminology
http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/publications/glossary2.pdf (28 pages, pdf, 600Kb)
This indispensable reference tool lists and defines more than 400 terms and concepts concerned with the tidal phenomena and its measurement.
The Physical Oceanographic Real Time System (PORTS®) Web Site
This Web site provides access to real-time oceanographic and meteorological data for 13 major U.S. harbors. After selecting a particular harbor area, you can view the types of sensors and their locations with the integrated Google Maps® application. To view specific data for a particular sensor in graphic and text formats, roll your mouse over it and “click.”
The Bridge is a growing collection of online marine education resources. It provides educators with content-correct and content-current marine information and data; supports researchers in outreach efforts; and improves communication among educators and between the education and research communities. Resources are organized in the Web site navigation menu on the left side of the screen. To access resources related to currents, go to the navigation menu on the left side of the screen and click on Ocean Science Topics, then click on Physics, then click on the heading Currents at the top of the page.
The Bridge Data Tips/Classroom Activities
Data Tips are classroom activities focused on a particular subject. Each Data Tip provides a description of the subject with links to images, animations, and other Web sites. Each Data Tip has a classroom activity using online data to guide students to a greater understanding of the subject presented.
To access the Data Tips related to subjects discussed in the currents tutorial, go to the navigation menu on the left side of the screen and click on Lesson Plans, then Data Activities. Scroll down the main page and click on the topic Physics. In the Physics Data Tip Archives, you will find the following activities:
September 2006 - Sea State
Being able to accurately forecast the conditions at sea, or sea state, has been the goal of explorers, sailors, and fishermen for thousands of years. Now, through the use of ocean observing systems, we can not only predict, but pinpoint, exactly what the sea state will be like before leaving the dock.
November 2005 - Cold One Day, Warm Another?
Ever wondered why water temperatures at the beach can be so different from day to day? Learn how upwelling influences beach water temperatures in this Data Tip, a collaboration with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Field Research Facility.
March 1999 - The Far-Reaching Effects of Oil Spills
Drifter data, which yield information on ocean currents, are useful to scientists for many purposes. One important application of the data is using them to help predict the paths of oil spills. Use drifter data to predict where the oil from the New Carissa spill off the coast of Oregon may go. Investigate what may happen to the oil if a spill were to happen near where you live.
October 2005 - Waves: An Alternative Energy Source
Our lives have become so dependent on non-renewable energy sources that it is hard to imagine life without them. But what about renewable or sustainable energy sources? Explore the possibility of waves as an alternative energy source and use data from U.S. ocean observing system buoys to determine the feasibility of harnessing this energy source.
January 2005 -Tsunami
On Saturday, December 25, 2004, an underwater earthquake caused tsunamis to crash into coasts around the Indian Ocean basin, claiming over 100,000 lives. What are the underlying physical and geological forces that create these devastating natural phenomena?
August 2000 - Tides
Tides dictate the lives of the marine organisms which live within their reach, as well as the plans of those who live, work, and play near the coast. This month, we examine the factors that influence the tides and use NOAA tide data to make tidal predictions.
Ocean Motion and Surface Currents
This visually and content-rich multimedia Web site is an excellent resource for teachers looking to enhance their subject content knowledge of ocean currents. The site includes comprehensive essays on ocean currents, the forces that influence them, the impacts currents have on the Earth's climate and biological diversity, methods used to measure ocean currents, and profiles of researchers that work in fields involving ocean currents. The Web site also includes a series of professional development modules for teachers and lesson plans for students on a range of oceanographic subjects including Navigation, Coriolis, and Ocean Gyres. To access the modules and lesson plans, you must provide a password which is distributed upon request.
Select the Currents icon on the home page of this Web site to learn more about ocean currents, the forces that effect them and ways that currents are measured and to find links to real-time data. There is also an interactive quiz. These materials will be most helpful for teachers looking for professional development by increasing their science content knowledge, advanced high school students, or undergraduates. The Ocean World Web site provides an excellent opportunity to explore specific topics in and related to oceanography, find rea-time data, and delve deeper into oceanography.
Ocean Surface Currents
This Web site promises to provide a detailed presentation of all of the major surface currents in the world. Although still under construction, the site presents exhaustive information and data on over 32 individual surface ocean currents in the Atlantic Ocean. The developers intend to present information on surface currents from the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and the Earth’s Polar regions. To explore the surface currents of the Atlantic, move your mouse over the image of the Atlantic Ocean and click on it. To explore a specific current, roll your mouse over the name of the current and click on it.
Sea Surface Current Radar Tutorial
This is a brief and well-written online tutorial of sea surface current radar and how it is being used to map ocean surface currents along the shore of New Jersey.
This inquiry-based activity teaches students how scientists use vectors via sea surface current radar to study the surface currents of the ocean. Then using real data, students will locate a missing ship off the New Jersey coast. To use this activity, you can follow the navigation links at the bottom of each Web page of the activity, or the navigation path on the left-hand side of each Web page.
Dive and Discover – Deep Ocean Circulation
This section of the Dive and Discover Web site focuses on the causes of deep ocean circulation. It includes a video on how differences in temperature and salinity cause different water masses to form layers, as well as animations of water circulation in the North Atlantic and the Global Conveyer belt.
Online Article – Greenhouse Gas Buildup May Cause Collapse of the Global Conveyer Belt
Though almost a decade old, this brief article which appeared in the Columbia University Newspaper discussed an important warning being issued from several of the world's leading climate experts. The article states the buildup of greenhouse gases may cause an abrupt collapse of the oceans' prevailing circulation system (aka the global conveyer belt) that could send temperatures across Europe plummeting in a span of 10 years.