A CIESE Realtime Data Project

Gulf Stream Voyage

The Current Today


1.  Create working groups of 6 students. Break each group of six into pairs.

Pair 1
2.  Obtain the most recent data from the following buoys.  Record the following information on the Student Worksheet:  Latitude and Longitude, Time and Date, Air Temperature (ATMP) and Water Temperature (WTMP).  Scroll down the page to the Previous 24 observations.  Plot the location of the 6 buoys on the chart.


Nantucket Buoy
(Station 44008)
Georges Bank Buoy
(Station 44011)
East of Cape May Buoy
(Station 44004)

Delaware Bay Buoy
(Station 44009)

East of Cape Hatteras Buoy
(Station 41001) 

South Hatteras Buoy
(Station 41002)

Pair 2
3. Obtain the most recent ship data by clicking on the Ships in the North Atlantic link below. The symbols on the chart represent the ships and buoys currently logging data in the Northern Atlantic. The red dots are ships and the numbers are buoys. Locate at least four ships between 40N - 50N Latitude and 40W - 70W Longitude. Write down the exact name of the ship on the Student Worksheet.

Ships in the North Atlantic

4. Now scroll down to the Ship Database below the map and find your ships. Choose other ships if the ones you selected are not listed. Record the longitude and latitude of your ships that is listed for each one on the data table in the Position column. Next go back up to the map and select WaterTemp from the choices that are listed across the bottom of the map. Determine the approximate water temperature at location of your ship. Record the water temperature.

Pair 3
5.  Obtain the most recent satellite image of the Gulf Stream and answer the questions on the student worksheet.

Real Time Sea Surface Temperature Satellite Data

6.  Using colored pencils, sketch the approximate current location of the Gulf Stream on the chart.  Use the appropriate colored pencil to represent the temperature of the water and label.  Use the latitude and longitude points to guide placement of the current. 

7.  After each pair of students has collected their respective data and answered their questions, have the students regroup into their group of six. Have the students compare their data and answer the Assessment questions on the worksheets.

Compare the ocean water temperature data from the satellite image with the temperatures collected from the ships and buoys. 
1. How close do the data sources compare? 

2. With the availability of satellite imagery, why do you think scientists continue to collect data from ships and buoys?

Analyze satellite imagery.  Review the following archived satellite images and answer the questions on the Student Worksheet.

January 29, 2002 
April 19, 2002
August 28, 2002 
October 23, 2002 
Archived images from the Ocean Remote Sensing Group, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

 3. Does the position of the North Wall (the Northern boundary of the Gulf Stream) fluctuate greatly during the year?  Explain.

4.  Describe yearly sea surface temperature changes of the Northwest Atlantic Ocean.  

5.  Study the satellite image below.   Based on the information in the image, estimate the time of year.  Support your answer.

Lab Report
1. Define the following Gulf Stream terms:
North Wall
Warm core eddies
Cold core eddies
Gulf Stream meanders

Apply the knowledge learned working in your small group to the following activities.  Complete the activities individually and submit your question responses and completed Gulf Stream Map in your Lab Report.

What information besides sea surface temperature might illustrate the pathway of the Gulf Stream?

2.  View the example real time data image to learn how to locate the Gulf Stream, the position of the North Wall, warm-core eddies, cold core eddies and Gulf Stream meanders.

3.  Using the AVHRR Sea Surface Temperature Data, choose a recent 7-Day Composite Image for the Gulf Stream Region:

  • Choose the current year and month (Click on choice)
  • Scroll down and select the most recent 7-Day Composite Image.  If there is too much cloud interference, click back and select the next day.

 4.  On the Blank Gulf Stream Map, sketch in the current location of the Gulf Stream and label the following:

  • The Gulf Stream Current
  • North Wall
  • Meanders
  • Cold-core eddies
  • Warm-core eddies


5.  Using the Gulf Stream Velocities, choose the real time data image timeframe that best matches your sea surface temperature date.

6.  On the Gulf Stream Map, draw in the arrows that represent the direction of the water flow in the following features:

  • The Gulf Stream Current
  • North Wall
  • Meanders
  • Cold-core eddies
  • Warm-core eddies


7.  Answer the following questions in your lab report:

a.  What direction does the current flow around Cold-core eddies?
b.  What direction does the current flow around Warm-core eddies?
c.  Do Cold-core eddies or Warm-core eddies have faster current velocities?
d.  Where is the location of the North Wall in respect to the Gulf Stream?
e.  What is the difference between a meander and an eddy?
f.  What features were easily recognized on the sea surface temperature map?
g.  What features were easily recognized on the velocities map?
h.  If you had to choose one of these real time data to use while sailing in the Gulf Stream, which would it be? Why?
i. How is the Gulf Stream identified today?
j. Why is it important to know where currents are today? 
k. Why is it so important to spend money on a satellite to collect this data?
l.  In general, does the position of the Gulf Stream change drastically during the course of one year?  Provide support for your response.