In a computational science, there can come a time when enough raw computational power is available to lift the science to a new level of fundamental understanding. Particularly in various subdisciplines of fluid dynamics, the complexity of the physical problems to be solved establishes a benchmark—a minimum need in computer resources. It is only recently that sufficient computing power has become available to allow significant leaps in the understanding of important phenomena. The rapid increase has been extraordinary over the last several decades, with a 10‐fold increase in the speed of computations in the 1970s and a 25‐fold increase in the 1960s. Today's supercomputer is a thousand times more powerful than those in existence in the early 1960s, when the first ocean model calculations were done.
Only with the recent generation of powerful supercomputers can more realistic ocean models be constructed to show oceanic circulation over many scales of motion—such as global, basin and mesoscale.