From Climate State Wiki

The ocean (also the sea or the world ocean) is the body of salt water that covers approximately 70.8% of the Earth and contains 97% of Earth's water.[1] Oceanographers have divided the ocean into five different regions: Pacific (the largest), Atlantic, Indian, Southern, and Arctic (the smallest).[2] Seawater covers approximately 361,000,000 km2 (139,000,000 sq mi) of the planet. The ocean is the principal component of Earth's hydrosphere, and therefore integral to life on Earth. Acting as a huge heat reservoir, the ocean influences climate and weather patterns, the carbon cycle, and the water cycle.

Ocean currents

An ocean current is a continuous, directed movement of seawater generated by a number of forces acting upon the water, including wind, the Coriolis effect, temperature and salinity differences.[3] Ocean currents are primarily horizontal water movements. They have different origins, such as tides for tidal currents, or wind and waves for surface currents.

Ocean currents greatly affect Earth's climate by transferring heat from the tropics to the polar regions and thereby also affecting air temperature and precipitation in coastal regions and further inland. Surface heat and freshwater fluxes create global density gradients that drive the thermohaline circulation part of large-scale ocean circulation. It plays an important role in supplying heat to the polar regions, and thus in sea ice regulation.

Collectively, currents move enormous amounts of water and heat around the globe influencing climate. These wind driven currents are largely confined to the top hundreds of meters of the ocean. At greater depth the drivers of water motion are the thermohaline circulation (the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) is part of a global thermoholine circulation). This is driven by the cooling of surface waters at northern and southern polar latitudes creating dense water which sinks to the bottom of the ocean. This cold and dense water moves slowly away from the poles which is why the waters in the deepest layers of the world ocean are so cold. This deep ocean water circulation is relatively slow and water at the bottom of the ocean can be isolated from the ocean surface and atmosphere for hundreds or even a few thousand years.[4] This circulation has important impacts on global climate and the uptake and redistribution of pollutants such as carbon dioxide by moving these contaminants from the surface into the deep ocean.

Tidal currents are in phase with the tide, hence are quasiperiodic; associated with the influence of the moon and sun pull on the ocean water. Tidal currents may form various complex patterns in certain places, most notably around headlands.[5] Non-periodic or non-tidal currents are created by the action of winds and changes in density of water. In littoral zones, breaking waves are so intense and the depth measurement so low, that maritime currents reach often 1 to 2 knots.[4]

The wind and waves create surface currents (designated as "drift currents"). These currents can decompose in one quasi-permanent current (which varies within the hourly scale) and one movement of Stokes drift under the effect of rapid waves movement (which vary on timescales of a couple of seconds). The quasi-permanent current is accelerated by the breaking of waves, and in a lesser governing effect, by the friction of the wind on the surface.[4]

Deep ocean

Deep ocean currents are density-driven and are different from surface currents in terms of scale, speed, and energy. The temperature, salinity (saltiness), and depth determine the density of the water. The colder and saltier the ocean water, the denser it is. The greater the density differences between different layers in the water column, the greater the mixing and circulation. Density differences in ocean water contribute to a global-scale circulation system, also called the global conveyor belt,[6] or ocean conveyor belt.