Planetary Processes Driving the Ocean

Ocean is the largest of Earth’s water bodies, covering 71% of the planet. It’s the home of thousands of species and plays a crucial role in regulating Earth’s climate. It’s also a source of energy, transporting heat and delivering food to the rest of the planet.

The ocean’s tight linkage with the atmosphere makes it vital for forecasting weather and climate conditions. It absorbs much of the solar energy that reaches the surface, and carries this energy for thousands of kilometers in sweeping ocean currents before releasing it back into the atmosphere.

Few bodies of water are as complicated or active as our oceans. From predictable tidal currents to fickle rip currents, these forces of nature profoundly affect weather, marine transportation and the cycling of nutrients.

Plate tectonics, post-glacial rebound and sea level rise are some of the many factors that continuously change the coastline and structure of our world’s ocean. But these are not the biggest ocean movement drivers at work – the most important planetary processes occur in the waters beneath the surface.

Tidal changes in sea level are produced by the gravitational pull of the Moon and Sun on the oceans. This causes the water to be drawn toward or away from coastal areas, resulting in a rising and falling of the seas each lunar day. These tidal changes in the ocean level produce ocean currents that carry heat and other substances across the globe in patterns that have evolved over millions of years.

These movements are a vital part of the world’s water cycle and are critical to ocean ecosystems. They create food, oxygen and other substances that are essential to the life of the ocean’s creatures. They also help shape coastlines through erosion and accretion of sand. And, they provide a vital source of energy in the form of tidal power.

Ocean water contains a large amount of dissolved gases, including oxygen and carbon dioxide. The increase in carbon dioxide levels caused by burning fossil fuels can lead to an increase in the acidity of ocean waters, which impacts corals and shellfish who rely on specific pH levels for growth and protection.

Our oceans play a huge role in our lives and we must take action to ensure that these precious ecosystems are preserved. You can do your part by reducing your use of fossil fuels and becoming a conscious consumer, purchasing products made with sustainable resources. You can also become involved in local initiatives to clean up your community’s rivers and beaches. And, most importantly, you can donate to organizations working on protecting our oceans. Every small act will make a big difference.

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