This technicolor swirl may look like an artist’s acid trip, but what you’re actually looking at is the next generation of high-resolution climate models.

Warmer colors represent hotter temperatures and ripples indicate eddy currents in this stunning visualization, which was released last week by Los Alamos National Laboratory. It was produced by a simulation called the Model for Prediction Across Scales Ocean (MPAS-O). MPAS-O is a variable resolution model, meaning researchers can sharpen the simulation on regional scales where more data exists. Currently, the map has a resolution of anywhere between 9 and 35 miles.


Swirling eddy currents driven by atmospheric winds are common in the ocean, ranging in size from centimeters to hundreds of miles across. Like larger ocean currents, eddies impact our climate by shuffling heat energy around Earth’s surface. But until recently, we lacked the computational power to model these currents at global scales. MPAS-O will help researchers simulate and predict our planet’s changing climate with unparalleled precision. And it’s only a small part of a much larger modeling effort, the Accelerated Climate Model for Energy, which is currently being developed with resources from 14 research institutions across the United States.

Man-made climate change may be unwelcome, but at least it can remind us that the Earth is a work of art. [Live Science]

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