Generated for Science On a Sphere show "Loop". This animation depicts the part of Earth's ocean circulation model that involves heat transfer.
In the polar latitudes the ocean loses heat to the atmosphere. Near the equator ocean water warms, and because it is less dense, it remains close to the surface. Cast away from the planet's equator by the winds and Earth's rotation, warm equatorial waters travel on or near the surface of the globe outward toward high latitudes. But as water loses heat to the increasingly cold atmosphere far away from the equator it sinks and pushes other water out of the way. Endlessly, this pump known as Meridional Overturning Circulation, circulates water and heat around the globe. Considering that the ocean stores exponentially more heat than the atmosphere and the fact that they're always in direct contact with each other, there's a strong relationship between oceanic heat and atmospheric circulation.