Oceanography in the 21st Century - An Online Textbook
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Our Ocean Planet
Oceanography in the 21st Century

A New Oceanography Book for College Students

The teaching of oceanography has changed little in 150 years. Most recent oceanography textbooks, despite their emphasis on the latest news from oceanography, are still organized around biological, chemical, geological, and physical oceanography. They follow in the outline laid down by Richard in his L'Oceanographie published in 1908, and Kummel in his Handbuch der Ozeanographie published in 1907. Jules Verne would feel at home in today's classrooms. He would be able to read, understand, and appreciate much of what is in the textbooks. But he would be perplexed by what he would see in today's oceanography labs.

19th century oceanography emphasized:

  1. Animals, currents, and the shape of the sea floor;
  2. Man the explorer sailing the seas in ships;
  3. Static systems unchanged for millions of years.

21st century oceanography emphasizes:

  1. Ocean as one part of earth-system science;
  2. Dynamic interacting systems, abrupt climate change, and the increasing influence of human activity;
  3. Microbes, the carbon cycle, El Nino;
  4. Computer models and analysis;
  5. Machine the explorer, robotics, satellites, and undersea observing systems.

If we wish to lead students to understand our environment and to help them vote wisely on important environmental issues, if we want to educate future scientists and educators, and if we hope to satisfy student's curiosity, a different approach is necessary. That's why I am writing this book.

Our Ocean Planet
Oceanography in the 21st Century


  1. Earth System Science
  2. Why Study the Ocean?
  3. What's New?

Role of the Ocean in Climate and Climate Change

  1. The Ocean and Climate
  2. The CO2 Problem
  3. Evidence for Global Warming
  4. Earth's Radiation Balance
  5. The Carbon Cycle, the Ocean, and the Iron Hypothesis
  6. Microbial Food Web
  7. Abrupt Climate Change
  8. Modeling the Climate System
  9. Climate Change Policy Issues

El Nino and the Role of the Ocean in Weather

  1. El Niño and Tropical Heat
  2. Equatorial Currents
  3. Observing the Tropical Pacific
  4. Forecasting El Nino
  5. El Nino Teleconnections
  6. El Nino Policy Issues
  7. Oceans and North American Drought





Coastal Problems

  1. Tsunamis
    1. Great Indian Ocean Tsunami of December 26,2004
    2. Earthquakes
  2. Storm Surges
  3. Types of Coasts
  4. Beach Processes
  5. Coastal Erosion
  6. Coastal Issues

Coastal Pollution

  1. Introduction to Coastal Pollution
  2. Sources of Coastal Pollution
  3. Alien Species
  4. Harmful Algal Blooms
  5. Oil Spills and Aftermath
  6. Coastal Pollution Policy Issues


  1. Fisheries Issues
  2. Fish and Fisheries
  3. Marine Food Webs
  4. Phytoplankton Distribution
  5. Invertebrates, the Other Food Source
  6. Fisheries Policy Issues

Shared Resources

  1. How to find Useful Material on the Web
  2. The Anthropocene
  3. Tragedy of the Commons
  4. Coastal Zone
  5. Energy

Please Note – I am still writing this book. Some pages are not quite complete

Environmental Geoscience Chapters

I have written this material for an Environmental Geoscience course for first-year college students interested in majoring in the subject.

Our Ocean Planet
Environmental Geoscience in the 21st Century

Open Source Textbook

Want to contribute? Many of you who are using this material in your classes can write web pages better than I, or you may want to include important new material. Here's your opportunity. I would like to make the textbook an open source document open to contributions from all. If you write a section, I will add it to the book and put your name on the contribution. Contact me at stewart@ocean.tamu.edu for more information.


Funding for this book comes partly from the State of Texas who pay my salary as a professor of oceanography at Texas A&M University, and partly from contract 1205046 with U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Jet Propulsion Laboratory which funds the production of educational material. This is their gift to the students and citizens of the world.

Revised on: 9 September, 2008

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