Ocean and Climate
The ocean and its massive flow of water or currents are vital to how the heat energy moves between the Earth’s bodies of water, landforms and atmosphere. The ocean is a crucial factor in the storage and transfer of heat energy across the earth. The movement of heat through the ocean currents affects the regulation of weather conditions and temperature extremes. The global climate is directly impacted by the ocean’s current. “The ocean covers more than 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and holds 97 percent of its water” (National Geographic). Ocean currents are located on the surface of the ocean and deep in the water below. The currents can move horizontally and vertically. The ocean has an interconnected current or circulation system powered by wind, tides, the Earth’s rotation and the sun. The ocean absorbs heat when the air is warm and releases heat when the air is cool. The ocean’s role is critical in determining the climate because it absorbs, stores, and transports heat from the sun.
The ocean can warm or cool the air in a different ways, when the air is at a lower temperature than seawater, the ocean transfers heat to the lower atmosphere forming a low pressure air mass over that part of the ocean. Cool or cold waters lead to the formation of a high pressure air mass. This affects jet streams, bands of fast-moving high altitude air currents. These streams supply energy to developing storms at lower altitudes. The ocean alters the direction of storms and some storms even reverse direction as result of ocean-influenced air pressure changes.
The current in the ocean distributes the effects of weather worldwide. Some currents carry warm water from the tropical and subtropical regions toward the poles, while other currents move cool water in the opposite direction. “The Gulf Stream is a current that transports warm water across the North Atlantic Ocean from Florida to Europe. Before reaching Europe, the Gulf Stream breaks up into several other currents, one of which flows to the British Isles and Norway. The heat carried in this current warms the winds that blow over these regions, helping to keep winter there from becoming bitterly cold” (How the Ocean Affects Climate). The ocean’s circulation assists in balancing the unequal way the sun heats the Earth. “Were it not for the moderating effects of ocean currents on air temperatures, the tropics would be much hotter than they are and the Polar Regions even colder” (How the Ocean Affects Climate).
The ocean also adds water to the air through evaporation, when the sun heats the surface of the ocean it evaporates. Warm water vapor rises into the atmosphere which cools into tiny water droplets and ice crystals forming together to make large clouds which release the water in the form of rain, sleet, hail or snow. The area where most of the evaporation occurs is in the tropics and subtropics which contribute to tropical storms. The evaporation of seawater virtually creates all...