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Go with the Flow!

Go with the Flow!

Relax and go with the flow, Dude.

"Go with the flow" means "Relax! Let the current of life's river carry you along."

But, in life, that is not always the best way to get where you want to go.

In this game, you "Go with the Flow" only after you have fixed the currents to take you where you want to go. Where do you want to go? You want to get the KEY to the treasure chest full of GOLD, of course!


Remember just two rules:

  • Salt makes water heavier, so it sinks.
  • Heat makes water lighter, so it rises.

In your "current management" toolbox, you have

Game icon for salt. Blue background with sprinkling of salt crystals. Salt to make the current go down.
Icon for heat tool. Orange block. Heat to make the current go up.
Icon for current tool. Blue background with arrow pointing to right or left. A sideways current tool that you can use to send, or bend, the current to the right or left.
Icon for wall tool. Brown block with rocky texture. Walls that you can use to block currents.
Icon for submarine. With these tools, you can make your little submarine go anywhere to get the key to the treasure chest.
Icon for key to treasure chest. Key is hanging from a buoy under water. The key is attached to a buoy that drifts all around under water.
Treasure chest full of gold.

It's all yours! Just go with the flow!

If you really get stuck, check out the "Hint," but only as a last resort!

What about the salt and heat in the ocean?

If you have tasted the ocean, you know it is very salty. That is why it is easier to float in the ocean than in a fresh-water swimming pool or lake. Salty water is "thicker" or denser than fresh water. If you poured some ocean water into a lake, the ocean water would sink to the bottom.

Drawing shows cross-section of saltwater layered below fresh water.

Oops, that's not quite right.

If the ocean water is warmer than the lake water, the ocean water might not sink. That is because heat makes water lighter, or less dense. So warm salt water might float on colder fresh water.

See, it's not simple!

And what goes on in the ocean is really complicated.

The ocean is salty, but some parts are more salty than others. Why? You might think, with all those waves, it would all get mixed together.

But the ocean is big. Mixing happens by way of currents that travel all around the Earth. It is salt and heat that drive these currents.

Animtion showing extent of Arctic ice in winter and summer.

This animation shows an example of the area covered by Arctic sea ice in winter and in summer.

For example, every summer, some of the sea ice in the Arctic Ocean (near the North Pole) melts. Then in winter, it freezes again. The salt doesn't freeze; only the water freezes. The salt from the ice mixes into the water below, making it even saltier. When the salt-free ice melts the next summer, the melted fresh water tends to make the upper ocean less salty. But the melt water is also colder, which makes it sink.

All this heating and cooling and melting and thawing drives big ocean currents. Cold water sinks near the poles and flows toward the equator, getting warmer as it goes. As it warms, it starts to rise and pushes the warmer surface water near the equator back toward the poles. The warm water flowing from the equator region helps warm the climate in North America and Europe.

Play this video to see the major ocean
currents flow around the globe.

This ocean motion is called the "great ocean conveyor belt." The conveyor belt makes Earth a nice place to live. Otherwise, the equator would be way too hot and the northern and southern parts of the planet might be frozen all the time.

What would happen if the ocean became too warm and the ice did not form?

As Earth gets warmer, less ice forms in the Arctic each winter and more ice melts in the summer. How are these changes in the ocean's surface temperature and saltiness (scientists say "salinity") affecting the ocean currents? How is the melting and heating affecting the average sea level?

Some very smart spacecraft are helping to find the answers.

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