Does anyone know where I can find a map of polylines/polygons indicating the rough location of major (and minor if possible) oceanic currents? Velocity is always welcome, but directionality would be ideal.

It would be similar to this map which I believe is only available to ArcGIS users.

This will mainly be used for comparing to other data layers, rather than integrating into the model.

I am using QGIS, and any resolution is okay, but really the finer the better (as always).


3 Answers 3


Here's that dataset (Major_Ocean_Currents_arrowPolys_30m) in GeoJSON

Pyesridump is a very powerful tool you can use to liberate data from ESRI's silos.
This literally took me less than a minute to strip it out, load into geojson.io, and then save it as a gist.

  • Thanks, I am a little concerned about the word 'liberate' here, rather than the word 'free' current data, but this seems like what I am after. Are you able to expand on the methods of your answer at all? I am a little new at all this :)
    – Amroco
    Jun 16, 2017 at 22:12
  • 1
    install pyesridump on your machine. fire up terminal, navigate to desired output directory, write 1 line of code: "esri2geojson url-of-esri-arc-gis-mapserver/0 output-file-name.geojson" and poof. .geojson file magically appears in the directory! essentially its python script pulling the gis data out of the esri arcgis servers. "liberate" in the sense of, not it is no longer locked up behind a silo, and can be free/open. most sites that run these also have open data/just don't overwhelm their servers.
    – albert
    Jun 17, 2017 at 0:04

The Integrated Climate Data Center - ICDC offers a dataset on global oceanic current. However, you might need to contact the staff for full access.

  • This is a great data source for surface current velocity! Thank you. It is a snap-shot of time however and I think maybe doesn't include directionality. A great source though and I will definitely contact them!
    – Amroco
    Jun 15, 2017 at 17:42
  • Happy to help! If this answer or any other one solved your issue, please mark it as accepted (green check mark). Jun 16, 2017 at 5:41
  • Do you know of any sources that include like an averaged annual currents with direction? This is a good source, but I feel more valid only for that month and it hasn't got directionality unfortunately
    – Amroco
    Jun 16, 2017 at 22:14
  • @Amroco Unfortunately not... Jun 19, 2017 at 6:55

Not really the answer you might expect, but I use matplotlib basemap to plot maps and I can add whatever I want, including water. I think you can have coordinates data from there, but it needs to dive into the code. http://matplotlib.org/basemap/

Please note that it will be replaced by cartopy. http://scitools.org.uk/cartopy/

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