Oceanography in the 21st Century - An Online Textbook
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Why Study the Ocean?

The Ocean Influences Our Lives in Many Ways

  1. The CO2 problem, global warming, and the ocean and all inter-related.
    1. The ocean strongly influences climate including earth's surface temperature, by influencing:
      1. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere,
      2. The transport of heat from the tropics to polar regions,
      3. The operation of the hydrological cycle,
      4. Earth's carbon cycles.
    2. Most of the oxygen in the atmosphere comes from the ocean.
    3. The ocean may be responsible for abrupt climate change.
    4. Will global warming plunge the world into the next ice age?
  2. El Niño and and other oceanic processes change weather patterns.
    1. The ocean strongly influences weather patterns.
    2. The largest source of year-to-year change in the weather is El Niño, which is a disruption of the interaction of the atmosphere and ocean in the Pacific.
    3. A change of temperature of surface water in the western north Pacific and in the tropical Atlantic can cause drought in Texas, the great plains, and the and west.
  3. Fisheries and sustainable resources of the ocean are important.
    1. Roughly 25% of the protein used by people comes from fish.
    2. So many fish have been taken from the ocean that the fish populations have collapsed almost everywhere.
      1. The loss of fish changes the marine food webs.
      2. Changing food webs affect other life and processes in the sea.
    3. How many fish can be caught?
  4. Coastal pollution has many consequences.
    1. Coastal pollution seems to be the cause of large-scale harmful algal blooms.
    2. Pollution also seems to create dead zones in some regions.
    3. What causes the dead zones off Mississippi in the summer?
  5. Coastal processes influence beaches and those who live and work near the beach.
    1. Beaches are constantly being eroded away.
    2. Structures along the beach in most areas will be destroyed in the long run.
    3. Cost of protecting structures along the beaches is very high.
    4. Why do some beaches lose so much sand that houses are destroyed.

Here are other reasons both big and small suggested by students

  1. The ocean is big
    1. It has lots of water.
    2. Many factors influence the ocean.
  2. It influences the hydrological cycle
    1. Almost all the water that falls on land evaporates from the ocean.
    2. Water from the ocean falls as rain.
    3. Water from the ocean influences weather.
  3. Coastal erosion
    1. People living along coasts are concerned about erosion.
  4. Ocean pollution
    1. Pollution influences recreational use of the ocean.
    2. Pollution influences what fish can be eaten safely.
  5. Fisheries and over fishing
    1. Many countries and regions depend on fish from the sea.
    2. People like to watch whales and dolphins.
  6. Future of climate
    1. We cannot understand and forecast climate without understanding the ocean.
  7. Untapped resources
    1. The ocean may be a future source of materials or food.
    2. The ocean may be a source of cobalt, which is found in sea floor nodules.
  8. Political issues.
    1. Who owns the ocean and it's resources?
    2. Military power depends on oceanic access.
    3. What is the exclusive economic zone?
  9. Currents
    1. Currents influence commerce.
    2. They transport heat.
  10. Nautical Archeology

Revised on: 19 August, 2013

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