I am getting close to being done my ocean currents, so I would like some constructive criticism/critiques to see where they can be improved before I move onto the next step of my worldbuilding project.

Full world - https://i.stack.imgur.com/oCrKF.jpg

I understand the basic principles of ocean currents from the Climate Cookbook and Artifexian, so I think the primary currents/large ocean gyres are correct, but I get a little lost when I start to get more granular and try to extend them into smaller seas and around islands. In Artefexian's video on ocean currents, he says that adjacent gyres need to rotate in operate directions like a series of gears, however I find that doesn't always work out that way when I try to extend currents in what feels like the most logical direction. I've done what I think makes sense in the central island area but it doesn't necessarily work like a series of gears. Here is a zoomed in shot of the area in question:


So, do all ocean currents create gyres? What are some guidelines that one can use to figure out ocean currents when the principles that Artifexian provides do not necessarily work?

I know it doesn't need to be perfect and I am not looking to make it so realistic that I get bogged down, but I would like to make sure I am not doing anything that is wrong or completely unrealistic.

Thank you for taking the time to read this!

  • $\begingroup$ "So, do all ocean currents create gyres?". Just those flow in a north-south direction (at all), and have space to get bent by Coriolis force. Also any current under winds that have so been bent, of course. So yeah... all. Stuff moving on the surface of a spinning ball really likes to curl around itself. $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Feb 21, 2021 at 22:45
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ No, not all them do. The best known (and most important) counterexample is the Antarctic Circumpolar Current which goes on and on and on around the world; but you can consider it to be an enormous gyre. Gyres appear when the mass of water with its huge momentum cannot continue moving in the original direction because of an obstacle; the momentum cannot just die, so the water has no choice but to double back. But in general, yes, in the end all the motion of water in the ocean must be in closed loops, for the obvious reasons. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Feb 21, 2021 at 23:02
  • $\begingroup$ I feel there are two distinct questions here, and the answer to the first is "no". To the second, a quick study of currents around the Malay Archipelago suggests it may be more complicated than general guidelines can cover. $\endgroup$
    – rek
    Feb 22, 2021 at 4:52

1 Answer 1


The hairy-ball theorem shows that the way you drew the currents (like hairs on a sphere), there are bound to be gyres. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hairy_ball_theorem

The theorem looks only at two-dimensional movement on a sphere, while real-world currents also have the ability to go downwards. Still, there will be vorticity - but you do not have to satisfy the theorem with the arrows you draw, because you only show the surface currents, and those can just as easily simply vanish, by going deep. So whatever you draw, the added depth dimension will save you from inconsistency.

  • $\begingroup$ The Hairy Ball theorem, like the square cube law, strikes again! $\endgroup$
    – PipperChip
    Feb 24, 2021 at 20:53
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you! This was helpful. I will continue extending currents in a logical way, trying to create gyres if possible, and if not possible then I can invoke the hairy ball theorem! $\endgroup$
    – travitolee
    Mar 9, 2021 at 16:37

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