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Interdisciplinary Oceanography
Review Material for Spring 2009


Tests typically have five questions, and you must answer four of the questions. Each answer should be a paragraph or two in length. You can include hand-drawn figures in your answer to clarify the answer.

Good answers are built on evidence, either data or published opinions of experts.
Good answers are carefully written and use words correctly.

Poor answers include unsupported opinions.
Poor answers are editorials not carefully reasoned statements.
Poor answers use words improperly. Examples:

"The atmosphere wants to allow..."
"Fuels are released to the atmosphere..." instead of "burning of fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide to the atmosphere."
"The atmosphere is composed of greenhouse gases."
"Greenhouse gases absorb sunlight."

Here are questions I have asked in the past:

  1. Web Sites. You have looked at many web sites. How do you know if the information at the site is correct?

  2. Feedback Loops: Give an example of a positive feedback loop in the climate system. Please don't use any example discussed in class.

  3. Global Warming, the Importance of the Problem: An important question being widely debated these days is: Is the surface of earth warming? There are lots of weather stations on land reporting surface temperature, but 70% of earth is covered by oceans.
    • Roughly how much has the land or the ocean warmed over the past century?
    • What measurements have been used to determine if the sea surface has been warming over the last century? Please state what was measured, and who made the measurements.
    • Do you trust the measurements? Please state your reasons for trusting or not trusting the observations.

  4. Global Warming, Cause and Effect: Why do some scientists think that earth's surface temperature will be 2°- 4° C warmer in a hundred years?
    • Please state what might cause the increase.
    • Please state how the cause will produce the effect (warming).

  5. Ocean Surface Temperature. How do we know if the average temperature of the oceans has increased over the last 100 years?
    • What measurements have been made?
    • What is the biggest source of error in the calculation of average surface temperature of the oceans?
    • How much has the average surface temperature of the oceans increased?

  6. Global warming, the Role of the Ocean: How is the ocean involved in global warming?
    • What is the importance of deep circulation in the ocean? There are at least two major influences.
    • How do oceanic processes influence earth's carbon budget (the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere)?
    • Does global warming influence hurricanes?
    • How do oceanic processes lead to a warm Europe?

  7. Global Warming, Past History: What do we know about earth's surface temperature over the past 1,000 years?
    • Please variable was measured to obtain information about temperature.
    • Please state how the measurement is related to temperature.

  8. Global Warming, the Role of the Ocean: The ocean involved in global warming.
    • Why does Wally Broecker expect global warming might push the world into the next ice age?
    • In answering a) please explain what process(es) in the ocean is involved, and how warming will influence the process(es).
    • What evidence do we have that Broecker is right?

  9. Greenhouse Gases. Explain very simply, in one or two paragraphs, how greenhouse gases increase earth's surface temperature.

  10. Influence of the Ocean in Global Warming. Please describe two important ways the ocean will influence possible global warming due to an increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

  11. Climate. Explain how the North Atlantic influences climate, especially abrupt climate change.

  12. Climate. Do you have confidence in the forecasts of earth surface temperature made by climate models.
    • Please explain your answer.

  13. Global warming, Policy: How will governments solve the problem of global warming?
    • Is there any international agreement on what to do? What has been agreed?
    • What measures might help reduce the buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere?
    • What are some important arguments against taking steps to reduce CO2 emissions?

  14. Global Warming, the Influence of Currents: Ocean currents redistribute heat throughout the oceans.
    • How are currents measured? Please list the important ways we can obtain global maps of currents.
    • How do satellite altimeters produce maps of currents? What do they measure, and how is the measurement related to currents? What type of currents do they measure?

  15. El Niño: Why is El Niño important? After all, is it just anchovies off Peru?
    • Pretend your are writing a letter to a friend. Explain in a few paragraphs the cycle of events in a typical El Niño.
    • Now explain why El Niño is important. Why might your friend care whether or not El Niño will return next winter?

  16. El Niño: El Niño involves important teleconnections.
    • Why is weather in various parts of the world related to events in the equatorial Pacific?
    • What are a few of the important teleconnections?

  17. El Niño. Explain in a few paragraphs why El Niño in the Pacific influences global weather patterns.

  18. Fisheries: The number of fish in the ocean varies from region to region. The populations are not uniformly distributed.
    • Where are fish most common?
    • What biological factors influence the distribution of fish?
    • What physical factors influence the distribution of fish? Please list the physical processes that influence the distribution, and the why these processes are found in specific regions.

  19. Fisheries: Many experts state that over fishing is an example of the "tragedy of the commons".
    • What is meant by this phrase?
    • How does it apply to fisheries?
    • What can the state of Texas do to mitigate the tragedy of the commons for the shrimp industry?

  20. Coasts: Coasts continually evolve.
    • Please describe the seasonal cycle of coasts along a barrier island or sandy coast such as Cape Cod.
    • What are the dominant processes causing changes of the physical structure of coasts?
    • What is the dominant result of man-made structures on beaches?

  21. Fisheries and Weather: Fisheries are not uniformly distributed in the ocean. Some areas have far more fish than others.
    • In what geographic areas are fish common?
    • How do winds influence local fisheries?

Revised on: 16 December, 2008

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