What Are Surface Currents Caused By?

By Dan Chruscinski; Updated April 24, 2017
What Are Surface Currents Caused By?

The movement of the water at the surface of the ocean is known as surface currents. These occur in a set pattern, with each one being named based on their location. These patterns are defined by the temperature of the currents, but surface currents are about more than just water. The atmosphere also plays a part.


Surface currents are created by both the heating of ocean and the winds that move across the water.


Water temperature rises at the equator, and falls at the poles. As the temperature of the ocean is raised the warm water flows to the top. Colder water sinks to the bottom.

Other Roles

Combined with the rotation of the earth, this process causes wind to move from the equator to the poles in a continuous pattern.

Fun Fact

The wind moving across the water drives the currents. This is why during a storm, waves can become violent with high tides hitting the shore.

Technical Terms

Surface currents are convection currents, meaning they are transporting heat through the circular movement of water and wind.

About the Author

Dan Chruscinski has written pieces for both business and entertainment venues. His work has appeared in "Screen Magazine" as well as websites such as Starpulse.com. Chruscinski graduated in 2006 with a degree in English literature from Illinois State University.