MadSci Network: Earth Sciences

Re: Where does the energy to cause ocean currents come from?

Date: Mon Jun 2 23:24:43 2003
Posted By: In Koo Kim, Grad student, Physical Chemistry, Harvard
Area of science: Earth Sciences
ID: 1054446727.Es

The oceans, as with most energy driven forces on this planet, are driven
mainly the Sun.  As the ocean revolves around the sun on it's axis,
different parts of the planet are heated at different rates.  In general,
the tropics get the most sunlight and the poles get the least.  The energy
differential is dissipated through convective currents that move both on
the surface and in the deep waters.  Another factor contributing to ocean
currents include the deposit of river freshwaters into the oceans.  The
mixing of freshwater into a certain ocean area may cause saline waters to
sink.  This kind of mixing drives some of the peculiar deep water ocean
currents behavior.  There is much that is not known about the ocean
currents.  Ocean currents are a major factor in everything from global
warming to periodic weather events such as El Nino.  

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