The warmer current of the Gulf Stream flows to the northeast off the U.S. eastern seaboard. Image: Donna Thomas/MODIS Ocean Group, NASA.
The Gulf Stream is a relatively fast-moving, warm ocean current which flows north from the straits of Florida, then northeast, off the east coast of the United States. Its weaker, more diffuse continuation is the east-flowing North Atlantic Drift, which is responsible for warming the climates of western Europe. The current, often taken to include the Caribbean Current, is fed by the North Equatorial Current, and can be viewed as the western part of the great clockwise water circulation pattern of the North Atlantic. The Gulf Stream was long considered to be one wide mass of water, but research has shown that it is actually made up of many think streams which cause local variations in water temperature.