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Resource Language:

English

Regional Focus

Global

The Thermohaline Circulation - The Great Ocean Conveyor Belt

Author: NASA /Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio
Grades: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
Subjects: Science, Earth and Space Sciences
Format: Downloadable MP4/M4V
Resource Types:
  • Video, 1 minute, 23 seconds
  • Article
Synopsis
  • This video and article explain thermohaline circulation, or the movement of cold surface water into the deeper parts of the ocean, which occurs near polar regions.
  • Students will also learn about the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, a current that flows around the Earth without encountering any land masses, allowing for thermohaline circulation.
Teaching Tips

 Positives

  • The article does a good job of explaining thermohaline circulation.
  • The video presents a simple animation of the ocean currents that will help students to visualize thermohaline circulation.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Teachers may want to read the article with students before viewing the video because the video does not have any audio or text to describe the phenomenon.
  • Teachers may want to pause the animation at intervals to discuss what is happening in the visualization.

Differentiation

  • In advanced earth science classes, teachers could show the video to students without any context and ask them to form a hypothesis about what is happening. 
  • Classes could discuss why the thermohaline circulation is likened to an ocean conveyor belt and the effect that the circulation has on ocean ecosystems.
  • Other resources on this topic include this TED-Ed video on ocean currents, this video on the ways that climate change impacts ocean currents, and this video on how oceans circulate.
Scientist Notes
This resource consists of a silent (non-narrated) video of the ocean thermohaline circulation that focuses especially on the northern Atlantic and the Antarctic Circumpolar Circulation, as well as textual descriptions. There is sufficient detail for teachers as to the science being shown in the video and the appropriate ages and standards, as well as a link to the original NASA source. This resource is recommended for teaching.
Standards
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • MS-ESS2-1 Develop a model to describe the cycling of Earth's materials and the flow of energy that drives this process.
      • MS-ESS2-4 Develop a model to describe the cycling of water through Earth's systems driven by energy from the sun and the force of gravity.
      • HS-ESS2-2 Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth’s surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.
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