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Survey of Oceanography
Lectures Schedule for Spring 2004

This is a general outline of the material for the web-based course. It is laid out to correspond with another course I will teach at the same time, so if you are in College Station, you are invited to attend the class. The outline is meant to be an overview of the topics to be discussed in roughly the order they will be discussed. Some topics may take more or less time than listed.

21-23 January 2004

C02 and the Role of the Ocean in Climate

You may have read that climate is warming, that the warming will lead to disaster if we don't stop burning fossil fuels, and that we may be required to stop driving our cars. What's happening? Is it really that bad? Are there other ways to solve the problem? Isn't earth just warming up naturally as a result of coming out of the last ice age?

26 January 2004 - The C02 Problem

28 January 2004 - What is the Evidence for Global Warming?

30 January 2004 - Earth's Radiation Balance, Oceanic Heat Fluxes

2 February 2004 - Abrupt Climate Change and the Ocean's Circulation

Homework 1 Due

4 February 2004 - Carbon Cycle in the Ocean and the Iron Hypothesis

6 February 2004 - Modeling the Climate System

9 February 2004 - Policy Implications

Homework 2 Due

El Niño and Role of Ocean in Weather

El Niño is influencing the weather everywhere according to lots of newspaper articles. Or is it really El Niño that is causing changes in the weather? Why should events in the equatorial Pacific be so much in the news? How can events so far away influence our weather?

11 February 2004 - Tropical Heat Budgets

13 February 2004 - Equatorial Currents and Typical El Niño and Observing the Tropical Pacific

Definition: El Niño is a disruption of the ocean-atmosphere system in the tropical Pacific having important consequences for weather and climate around the globe - NOAA.

16 February 2004 - I am attending the joint meeting of the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography and The Oceanography Society in Hawaii this week.

Work on your term paper

Homework 3 Due

18 February 2004 - No class today.

20 February 2004 - No class today.

23 February 2004 - Forecasting El Niño and Teleconnections

Some results of the meeting in Hawaii:

    1. All coral reefs are degraded compared with pre-human reefs.
    2. 30 Million more people move into the coastal zone each year worldwide, leading to increased degradation of oceanic resources and the environment. We must now study this urban ocean.
    3. There are more bacteria in the sea than there are stars in the known universe.
    4. Thousands of tuna, dolphins, and other animals are being tagged and followed for months to years, leading to completely new understanding of where they go in the ocean to live and breed.
    5. The idea of a species does not work with bacteria. There is a complete range of DNA and RNA similarity ranging from practically identical to very different.
    6. The charismatic megafauna is mostly gone: fishes, dolphins, turtles, sharks, and whales are down to a small fraction of their original populations. Why are so many places in the Caribbean called Tortuga (turtle)?
    7. Microbial ecology is hot.

25 February 2004 - Policy Implications

No recorded lecture today due to equipment problems.

29 (Sunday) February 2004 - Quiz 1 at 1:00 PM

This is an open book quiz covering Global Change and the role of the ocean in climate change,El Niñoand the role of the ocean in changing weather patterns. You will have one hour to complete the quiz and email me answers after the quiz has been uploaded to the web.The link above will go active when the quiz is available.

Fisheries: The Ocean as Food Source

Where are my Orange Roughy?

Julie loved orange roughy. She liked it even better than catfish. Her mother liked it because it was cheap compared with most other fish at the market. But now it was seldom for sale. Her mother asked the manager at the fish counter and he said he couldn't get it any more.

Can we help Julie?

Can we find out what happened to the orange roughy? To prepare for this section, look up orange roughy at so we know what fish we are learning about. Then write down possible explanations of why the fish is no longer sold. For example, few were sold so the market stopped carrying it. etc.

1 March 2004 - Fisheries: An Introduction

  • Why do we care about fisheries? How important are fisheries to the economy of any region? Get an overview of the scientific and policy issues from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the publishers of Science. Then learn a little about recreational fisheries, and commercial fisheries in this country. You can download a brochure on recreational fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico for more details. Get the total value of all fish landed by commercial fisheries in the US in 2002 (use the default value for the search), then get the total value for all fish caught in Texas for 2002.
  • The basic question is: How many fish can be harvested from the sea? The answer is not simple. Some fish stocks are declining. Is the decline due to overfishing? is it due indirectly to fishing for other types of fish? Or is it due to the natural variability of the stock? If it is due to overfishing, what can be done? Reduce the number of ships? Limit the fishing season?
  • Here is a brief quote from National Geographic magazine's article on Cuba Reefs: A Last Caribbean Refuge in the February 2004 issue.

    It was almost like a hallucination. Immediate. A sense of dislocation. Something was awry.. I had flopped overboard from a dinghy on a glassy Caribbean sea in the summer of the year 2000 and in an instant, apparently, slipped backward nearly half a century into an underwater realm that had not existed, so far as I knew, since the 1950s... Residents swarmed over me, welcoming me to the neighborhood, animals in numbers and diversity I hadn't seen in decades, not since Lyndon Johnson was president.. Schools of yellowtail snappers and blue creole wrasses darted about in a frenzy.. A squadron of glittering tarpon passed regally by, ... Green moray eels slid part way out of their crevice homes,...

What is the tragedy of the commons? The term was used by Garrett Hardin in his now famous article in Science in 1968. Hardin, Garret. "The Tragedy of the Commons." Science, 1968. 162:1243-8.

3 March 2004 - Fish and Fisheries

  • Where are the major fisheries of the world? That is, where do fish live in the ocean? Are they found in the deep, open ocean, along coasts, what coasts, on continental shelves, or where? Where are different commercial fish found? Are tuna caught in the same areas as sardines? Learn about cod at the cod page maintained by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Read about the distribution of a few other Atlantic fish at the same site. As you browse through the information, notice the shape of the fish. Some such as Atlantic mackerel are streamlined to be able to swim fast to catch other fish, others such as flounder are shaped to hide in the bottom. Notice form follows function. Can you look at the shape of an unfamiliar fish and deduce something about its habits? Note: If your browser supports java script, the picture of the fish pops up as you put the curser over the name of the fish on the Atlantic fish site.
  • Then learn about Alaskan Fish (use pull-down species menu) and view this animation of where Alaskan pollock were caught in 2001. (You can view other maps by at the Map Page for the Alaska Fisheries Science Center).
  • See if there is pattern in the distribution of fish caught as food. As you browse through the information, notice the shape of the fish. Some such as Atlantic mackerel are streamlined to be able to swim fast to catch other fish, others such as flounder are shaped to hide in the bottom. Notice form follows function. Can you look at the shape of an unfamiliar fish and deduce something about its habits? Note: If your browser supports java script, the picture of the fish pops up as you put the curser over the name of the fish on the Atlantic fish site.
  • For more information on fish, go to the fishbase data site, there, for example you can find Tuna information, Cod information, and red snapper information.

5 March 2004 - Marine Food Webs

  • The sunlit upper layers of the ocean, called the euphotic zone, are home to vast numbers of marine plants called phytoplankton. They include diatoms, dinoflagellates, and coccolithophores. The marine plants are Eukaryota, organisms with cells with a nucleus. Most phytoplankton are one-celled plants called protists. The plants use solar energy to convert CO2 and nutrients into living material. The plants are eaten by the smallest floating animals, the zooplankton, such as copepods. The small zooplankton are in turn are eaten by larger zooplankton such as jellyfish. Zooplankton are eaten by small fish such as sardines, herring, and squid, (see also here) and small fish are eaten by larger fish. This is a simple example of a marine food web.
  • All our ideas of life in the sea are rapidly changing. We now know that the food web is dominated by micro, nano, and pico plankton. Yet we know little about these organisms. They are too small to see easily or study, they cannot be cultured, and they tend to all look alike. We can separate them using such techniques as DNA analysis, and the analysis is leading to remarkable discoveries. Life in the sea is much more diverse than we expected. All life is now known to be in three domains. And all three are very common in the ocean. Click on any of the three domains and explore the microscopic world.

8 March 2004 - Global Distribution of Phytoplankton and Upwelling Regions

  • The distribution of phytoplankton in the ocean can be measured by color scanners in space. The first was the Coastal Zone Color Scanner launched in 1979 on the satellite Nimbus-7. It was followed many years later by the SeaWiFS on Landsat launched in 1997 on the Seastar spacecraft and MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer) on the Terra spacecraft launched in 1999. To understand how the instrument measures plankton, and why the measurements are important, see Studying Ocean Color From Space Teacher's Guide with Activities or the tutorial What Color is the Ocean - and why do you need a satellite to tell you? The SeaWIFS Project held a Teachers Workshop that gives more information.
  • If we look at the global image calculated from all Coastal Zone Color Scanner data collected from 1979 to 1986, we can see where in the ocean phytoplankton are found. A really big image (327 KBytes) is here. The color scale ranges from 0.1 milligram per cubic meter of chlorophyll pigment (purple) to 10 milligrams per cubic meter (red). This was the first global view of the distribution of phytoplankton in the ocean. We see that the phytoplankton are mostly along coasts, and in high latitude oceanic areas in spring and summer. Why such large concentrations near coasts? Monthly, global maps of chlorophyll, and other data are available from the SeaWiFS site.
  • Ekman showed that winds blowing on the sea force water very close to the surface to move at an angle of 45° to the right of the wind in the northern hemisphere. Currents at deeper levels move at larger angles. Summing up all the currents, we find that the transport is 90° to the right of the wind. Winds blowing toward the poles along the west coasts of continents push water offshore away from the coast. The water is replaced by upwelling water. The upwelled water is cold and rich in nutrients (fertilizer for phytoplankton). The upwelled water feeds a local fishery, and it influences the local climate. Find out more by reading Chapter 11, the theory of the Ekman layer, and Applications of Ekman Transports. Pay attention to Figure 9.3 and equations 9.14 and 9.16. I don't expect you to understand the mathematics in the first section, but notice what approximations were used to derive the results, and the nature of Ekman currents (the form of the solutions) graphed in several plots.
  • How Ekman currents leads to coastal upwelling is described in the Chapter 2. The Benguela Upwelling Zone published by the SeaWiFS Project at the Goddard Space Flight Center of NASA.

Homework 4 Due

10 March 2004 - Invertebrates: The Other Marine Food Source

  • The problem of overfishing is not limited to fish. We catch and eat many other marine animals including shrimp. crabs, clams, lobsters, oysters, and scallops. Shrimp News publishes a guide to the Farmed Species Shrimp.
  • Where do these creatures live? What do they eat? What eats them? How many are there? How are they affected by coastal development? Lets concentrate on one class: shrimp. How are shrimp raised? What factors influence shrimp farming? How does shrimp farming influence the environment? Get a good overview from Shrimp News (updated October 2003). Dr. Louis Landesman has written in 1994 on the negative influence of aquaculture on the environment. I have searched for more up-to-date info, but everything I found was many years old. Because environmental problems also lead to failure of the shrimp farms, many of the worst practices are being replaced by better practices.
  • Shrimp farming needs a constant supply of shrimp larvae or broodstock (See Hawaiian hatchery), shrimp ponds replace mangroves, the growing shrimp need lots of high protein food (See Brine Shrimp for Feedstock), some of which comes from the sea, and they produce waste water. Shrimp farmers can reduce environmental damage, and by raising shrimp reduce the need to fish wild shrimp. About half the shrimp sold today are raised on farms. The remainder come from such areas as the Texas gulf coast, which supports a major shrimp industry ($194,000,000 in 1999 compared with $9,000,000 for all fish from the Texas coastal waters). Find out more at the Texas Shrimp Farming site.

12 March 2004 - Policy Implications

  • Most fish stocks throughout the ocean are overfished despite fisheries regulations. Read this very important article by Jeremy Jackson and colleagues on Historical Overfishing and the Recent Collapse of Coastal Ecosystems from Science (2001), Volume 293, pages 629 to 638, in which they show that "Historical abundances of large consumer species were fantastically large in comparison with recent observations."
  • Why? Here are some issues from Habitat Media and a PBS series. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has similar information on Fisheries in Trouble. The problems include overfishing, reduced fish stocks, bycatch, fishing lower down on the food chain (lower trophic levels), and destruction of bottom organisms and habitat by bottom trawling. Fish have no where to hide. Even National Marine Sanctuaries regulations do not restrict fishing.
  • Think Locally: Which fish should we eat, which should we avoid because they are overfished or because fishing harms the environment? See the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch, their list of fish to eat or not eat, and the Audubon Society's Seafood Guide.

What is Texas government doing to reduce overfishing of shrimp and environmental problems of shrimping?
A really good overview is given in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Texas Shrimp Industry Report of Sept 2002, but this is a large file (5.9 Mb). Otherwise start at Texas Parks and Wildlife Coastal Fisheries Information. Also see Recommendation for 2004.

15 March 2004 - 19 March 2004 Spring Break

22 March 2004 - No Lecture

Coastal Erosion

Galveston has spent millions replenishing their beach. Yet it continues to disappear. Isn't there anything that can be done to keep the beach sand in place?

24 March 2004 - Coastal Erosion. An Introduction

  • Film: Portrait of a Coast. This is a beautiful film that follows the seasonal cycle of a New England coast noting problems caused by coastal development. While watching the film try to remember:
    • Why are beaches important?
    • What is the seasonal cycle of the beach? When is it highest, when lowest?
    • What processes influence the beach?
    • How does coastal development lead to problems?
    • What are the problems?

  • Read this Coastal Erosion Case Study of Cape Cod before class.
  • Coastal erosion is a problem for those who live near coasts and for marine organisms living along the coast. What is the nature of the problem? Are we making it better or worse? What causes erosion? Can it be prevented? Or do we want to allow erosion as a natural process?
  • The problems seen in the film are starkly highlighted at a coastal development on a Carolina coast, the Shell Island problem. Shell Island Resort is located on an offshore island, and an inlet at one end of the island is moving rapidly toward the resort. When it reaches the resort, the resort will be destroyed. The site outlines the problem, then provides background information on: What can be done? Should anything be done? Who should pay for any work?

Homework 5 Due

26 March 2004 - Types of Coasts, the Geological Setting.

  • The type of beach is determined mostly by the geological setting from Jim Durbin at the University of Southern Indiana. Plate tectonics and continental drift play a major role as do the types of rocks and sediments along the coast. The coast can be dominated by rocks or sediments. It can be rising or sinking. More information from Jim Durbin here (Scroll to bottom of page, and continue to the next page).

    Beach Processes. Shoaling and Breaking Waves, Sand Transport.

  • Waves breaking on the beach lose energy and create turbulence. Small waves carry sand up higher on the beach. Storm waves erode the beach and carry sand offshore. The water poured into the surf zone by breaking waves runs off in currents which carry sand along the bottom. Tides raise and lower sea level and modulate these processes. See Pamela Gore's Shoreline and Coastal Processes Web Page.

29 March 2004 - Ocean wave Theory, Wave Measurement and Prediction

  • Ocean waves are made by the wind: The faster the wind, and the longer it blows, the bigger the wave. The biggest waves are made by storm winds blowing for days over distances of thousands of kilometers in the North Pacific, the Antarctic region, and the North Atlantic. Read Chapter 6 of the Principles of Oceanography. Further ocean wave theory, with more equations is at Chapter 16 of Introduction to Physical oceanography. A simple explanation of wave theory is at the waves section of the oceanography book published by Seafriends Marine Conservation and Education Centre.
  • Where are the biggest waves in the world today? To answer the question, you can pick any day before the class day, it does not have to be the class day. Data are at the NOAA Wavewatch Web Pages. Click on the Center Top pull-down menu to select the region for the wave plot. You will need to plot Atlantic Ocean from global, Pacific Ocean from global, and Indian Ocean from global.

31 March 2004 - Beach Processes

2 April 2004 - Storm Surges and

  • Storms produce the greatest coastal changes. Great storms in the middle ages removed tens of kilometers of Germany's coasts in a few years. Hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico move barrier islands, flood nearby land, and destroy coastal structures.
  • The changes results from waves riding on a rise of sea level, the storm surge. Many processes influence the height of the surge. Essentially, hurricane force winds blowing onshore across tens of kilometers of shallow water pile up water along coast. The stronger the wind, the shallower the water, and the greater the extent of shallow water, the higher the pile of water. In some cases it can exceed 3-4 meters. If the surge occurs at high tide, the tide adds to the height of the surge. The surge can travel along the coast, causing high waters away from the strongest winds. The Electronic Storm Surge Atlas shows just what a storm surge would do to buildings in various locations in North Carolina. More information is in the online textbook Introduction to Physical Oceanography under storm surges. NOAA has a web page that describes the different categories of storms according to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale.
  • Additional Reading: See the on-line tutorial on tsunamis maintained by the University of Washington and NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. The NOAA Lab's pages provide more information. Additional information on modeling tsunami runup is at the US Corps of Engineers Coastal Engineering Research Center. Photos of damage are linked to this world map published by the University of Southern California Tsunami Research Group.

5 April 2004 - Policy Implications

  • Should we try to protect oceanfront property? The answer is often determined by nature: Most solutions either do not work, or they work for only a limited time.
  • Who owns beach sand. Read how the California Coastal Commission charges fees for keeping sand from reaching a Southern California Beach. Report on In-Lieu Fee Beach Sand Mitigation Program: San Diego County
  • If we do allow protective structures, who should pay. Remember the film Portrait of a Coast which began with footage showing a New England city that had been damaged by storms many times in the past century, and where the cost of protection exceeded the cost of the buildings being protected.

Homework 6 Due

9 April 2004 - Reading Day-No Classes.

Coastal Pollution

A few years ago, a new organism was found in some estuaries along the east coast: Pfiesteria piscicida. It killed fish. It seemed to cause sores and memory loss in people who handled the dead fish. Where do these organisms come from? For more see the Pfiesteria web site.

12 April 2004 - Introduction to Coastal Pollution

  • Pollution: The action of polluting, or condition of being polluted; defilement; uncleanness or impurity caused by contamination (physical or moral). spec. The presence in the environment, or the introduction into it, of products of human activity which have harmful or objectionable effects. -Oxford English Dictionary.
  • There are many types of pollution:
  • Bacteria and viruses (pathogens),
  • Organic compounds (herbicides, pesticides),
  • Nutrients (nitrates, phosphates),
  • Alien species, such as the European Green Crab and the aquatic weed Carcinus maenas on the US west coast,
  • Industrial chemicals (polychlorinated biphenyls),
  • Trash, including plastic rings used to hold 6-packs of cold drinks.

    Pollution has many consequences:

  • It may be concentrated by marine animals such as shellfish. Eating polluted shellfish causes illness. Animals at the top of the food chain have the greatest risk. For information on mercury in fish at the top of the food chain, and health risks you may wish to read the paper on the subject by the Center for Science and Public Policy.

  • It may kill marine life, e.g. birds caught in plastic rings used to hold 6-packs of cold drinks.

  • Large quantities of nutrients leads to plankton blooms. When the plants die, they sink to the bottom, decay, and reduce the oxygen in deeper waters, e.g. the Gulf of Mexico dead zone caused by Mississippi River runoff.

14 April 2004 - Sources of Marine Pollution

  • Sources include the following listed in the United States United States Environmental Protection Agency fact sheets:
    • Point sources such as sewer out falls, oil spills, industrial discharges; discharge from boats, and dumping of ballast water from ships (see the Christian Science Monitor article on the dangers),
    • Non-point sources such as runoff from farmland in the mid west. Read this United States Geological Survey fact Sheet on Nitrogen in the Mississippi Basin-Estimating Sources and Predicting Flux to the Gulf of Mexico. Non-Point sources include:
      • Runoff from farmlands that carry fertilizer, nutrients, pesticides and herbicides, salts in irrigation water, and crop residues.
      • Runoff from feedlots that carries high concentrations of nutrients, animal wastes, manure, and pathogens (bacteria and viruses).
      • Runoff from cities that carry heavy metals, organic chemicals such as oil from highways, fertilizer from backyards, and detergent (the most common pollutant).
      • Sand, silt, and clays (sediments) eroded from land, especially land denuded of plants that hold sediments.
      • Bacteria and nutrients from livestock, pet wastes, and faulty septic systems.
      • Atmospheric deposition of sediments and chemicals carried by the wind.
      • Solvents used to clean boats, anti fowling agents leached from hulls.
      • Trash dumped from ships, dropped on beaches, and washed into the ocean.
  • Fort Worth maintains a wonderful web site listing sources of urban pollution, and how the city is reducing the pollution.

16 April 2004 - Alien Species

18 (Sunday) April 2004 - Quiz 2 at 1:00 PM

This is an open book quiz covering Fisheries and Coastal Erosion.You will have one hour to complete the quiz and email me answers after the quiz has been uploaded to the web.The link above will go active when the quiz is available.

19 April 2004 - Harmful Algal Blooms

  • From time to time, usually in late summer, great masses of single-celled algae grow in coastal waters. They kill fish. They produce beautiful displays of bioluminescence. And, they sometimes lead to death when people eat shellfish or fish that have concentrated the nerve poisons produced by the blooms. To learn more about these blooms, read harmful algal page produced by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Then read Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms introduction to harmful algal blooms. You may also wish to scan some of the information at the Bigelow Lab's site. But be warned. If you do, you may never again want to eat fish.
  • Recently Pfeisteria has been in the news because of its impact on some east coast estuaries.
  • To learn more about dinoflagellates, see the Tree of Life, then Eukaryotes (organisms with a cell nucleus), then Alveolates. Also see The Facinating World of Dinoflagellates.

21 April 2004 - Oil Spills and Aftermath

  • Overview: The National Academy of Sciences has just published Oil in the Sea which summarizes sources of oil pollution:

    Nearly 85 percent of the 29 million gallons of petroleum that enter North American ocean waters each year as a result of human activities comes from land-based runoff, polluted rivers, airplanes, and small boats and jet skis, while less than 8 percent comes from tanker or pipeline spills

  • Oil Spills: Oil spills account for only a small percentage of oil in the ocean, but large spills attract much attention. The International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Historical Data has a list of all spills greater than 10 million gallons. They note that "The average number of large spills per year during the 1990s was about a third of that witnessed during the 1970s." NOAA has photographs of the largest spills.
  • Other Information: The Australian Institute of Petroleum's web site contains useful information on oil spills, and clean up methods. NOAA has a useful site for students and teachers with much useful information.
  • Effects: Oil spill have an immediate effect on marine life, and a longer term effect. The International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation lists Effects of Oil Spills.

Read the conclusions of the impact of the Exxon Valdez oil spill after ten years. NOAA has been monitoring Prince William Sound, the location of the spill, and they too have useful results and followup.

23 April 2004 - Policy Implications

  • Federal and state laws in this country have greatly reduced pollution from point sources. New laws seek to reduce pollution fro non-point sources. Other countries typically lag behind this country. See World Wildlife Fund report on state of Europe's rivers.
  • We have learned much from previous oils spills. What can we do to minimize environmental damage? Sometimes the clean up is worse than the spill. The NOAA web site has information on Lessons Learned from Valdez and Implications.
    • Set aside areas that have not been cleaned to compare with cleaned areas to assess usefulness of cleaning.
    • High-pressure, hot-water cleaning causes short-term and long-term damage.
    • Stating that cleanup does "more harm than good" while to some extent true, is a bit of an oversimplification.
    • Any cleanup that changes the physical makeup of the area delays recovery.
    • Oil that penetrates deeply into sand or sediments can stay fresh for years and be released slowly back into the water. Cleanup is difficult because it disrupts the physical state of the area. Recovery is delayed many years.
    • Using water to flush away oil may remove fine sediment needed by organisms.

  • NOAA's Damage Assessment and Restoration pages have examples of case studies, but in most cases funds collected from those who spilled toxic chemicals were used to restore areas that were not damaged, so it is very difficult to learn if the damaged areas can or have been restored and how. For example, the Santa Clara spill of arsenic trioxide seemed to cause no damage. Most of the material was in drums which were recovered, and NOAA sampling could find no arsenic trioxide above background level in the water, sediments, or organisms. The fines collected from the spill were used to build artificial reefs and to restore salt marshes not influenced by the spill.
  • The Pew Oceans Commission has published a report on Marine Pollution in the United States. It lists causes of pollution and possible ways to reduce pollution.

    A new report of the Pew Oceans Commission released today finds that polluted runoff from farms and cities - often far inland - went largely unabated or actually increased over the past 30 years, in many cases negating gains made in controlling direct sources of pollution.

26 April 2004 - Coral Reefs

28 April 2004 - Coral Reefs

30 April 2004 - Ocean Currents Types

  • This begins three days of information about processes in the ocean that will be useful for teaching oceanography.
  • There are many types of currents in the ocean. Most are generated by the wind. When the wind first starts to blow it creates inertial currents. After it blows for a few days, it produces Ekman currents. The variation of Ekman currents in different parts of the ocean leads to vertical currents that change the internal density structure of the upper kilometer of the ocean, leading to geostrophic currents seen in maps of ocean currents.
    1. Inertial Currents are generated by winds suddenly blowing for a few hours to a day or so. These are the most common currents in the ocean, but they have high frequency of about a cycle per day.
    2. Ekman currents are generated at the surface of the ocean by steady winds.
    3. Geostrophic currents are the currents in the oceans frictionless interior. These are the currents shown on maps of ocean currents. OceanWorld has a simple tutorial on how winds generate geostrophic currents. Lowell Stott at the University of Southern California has another tutorial that is a little more complicated, and not quite right.
    4. The Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science maintains online maps of ocean geostrophic currents.
    5. Tidal currents generated by the tides.

3 May 2004 - Ocean Current Measurements

4 May 2004 - Ocean Waves

6 May 2004 - FINAL EXAMINATION from 8:00 AM - 10:00 PM: No final Exam

Revised on: 3 August, 2009

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