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An Invitation to Marine Science, 7th Circulation of the Ocean

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1 An Invitation to Marine Science, 7th Circulation of the Ocean
Oceanography An Invitation to Marine Science, 7th Tom Garrison Chapter 9 Circulation of the Ocean

2 Chapter 9 Study Plan Mass Flow of Ocean Water Is Driven by Wind and Gravity Surface Currents Are Driven by the Winds Surface Currents Affect Weather and Climate Wind Can Cause Vertical Movement of Ocean Water El Niño and La Niña Are Exceptions to Normal Wind and Current Flow Thermohaline Circulation Affects All the Ocean’s Water Studying Currents

3 Chapter 9 Main Concepts Ocean circulation is driven by winds and by differences in water density. Along with the winds, ocean currents distribute tropical heat worldwide. Surface currents are wind-driven movements of water at or near the ocean’s surface. Thermohaline currents (so named because they depend on density differences caused by variations in water’s temperature and salinity) are the slow, deep currents that affect the vast bulk of seawater beneath the pycnocline. Large surface currents move in circular circuits—gyres—along the peripheries of major ocean basins. Wind-driven water moving in a gyre is dynamically balanced between Coriolis effect and the force of gravity. El Niño and La Niña affect ocean and atmosphere. They are exceptions to normal wind and current flow. Water masses form at the ocean surface. Water masses often retain their distinct properties as they sink and sort into identifiable layers.

4 Surface Currents Are Driven by the Winds
The westerlies and the trade winds are two of the winds that drive the ocean’s surface currents. About 10% of the water in the world ocean is involved in surface currents, water flowing horizontally in the uppermost 400 meters (1,300 feet) of the ocean’s surface, driven mainly by wind friction. (left) Winds, driven by uneven solar heating and Earth’s spin, drive the movement of the ocean’s surface currents. The prime movers are the powerful westerlies and the persistent trade winds (easterlies).

5 Surface Currents Are Driven by the Winds
What are some effects of ocean currents? Transfer heat from tropical to polar regions Influence weather and climate Distribute nutrients and scatter organisms Surface currents are driven by wind: Most of Earth’s surface wind energy is concentrated in the easterlies and westerlies. Due to the forces of gravity, the Coriolis effect, solar energy, and solar winds, water often moves in a circular pattern called a gyre.

6 Surface Currents Are Driven by the Winds
(below) A combination of four forces – surface winds, the sun’s heat, the Coriolis effect, and gravity – circulates the ocean surface clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere, forming gyres. (above) The North Atlantic gyre, a series of four interconnecting currents with different flow characteristics and temperatures.

7 Surface Currents Flow around the Periphery of Ocean Basins
Surface water blown by the winds at point A will veer to the right of its initial path and continue eastward. Water at point B veers right and continues westward.

8 Surface Currents Flow around the Periphery of Ocean Basins
The effect of Ekman spiraling and the Coriolis effect cause the water within a gyre to move in a circular pattern. The movement of water away from point B is influenced by the rightward tendency of the Coriolis effect and the gravity-powered movement of water down the pressure gradient.

9 Trade wind Water continues clockwise? 90° to the right of wind
direction is up here Water continues clockwise? Trade wind Direction of water movement 30°– 45° At 15°N Stepped Art Fig. 9-6, p. 236

10 Surface Currents Flow around the Periphery of Ocean Basins
The Ekman spiral and the mechanism by which it operates. The length of the arrows in the diagrams is proportional to the speed of the current in each layer. (a) The Ekman spiral model. (b) A body of water can be thought of as a set of layers. The top layer is driven forward by the wind, and each layer below is moved by friction. Each succeeding layer moves with a slower speed and at an angle to the layer immediately above it – to the right in the Northern Hemisphere, to the left in the Southern Hemisphere – until water motion becomes negligible. (c) Though the direction of movement varies for each layer in the stack, the theoretical net flow of water in the Northern Hemisphere is 90° to the right of the prevailing wind force.

11 Surface Currents Flow around the Periphery of Ocean Basins
(above) The hill of water in the North Atlantic. (a) The surface of the North Atlantic is raised through wind motion and Ekman transport to form a low hill. Water from point B turns westward and flows along the side of this hill. The westward-moving water is balanced between the Coriolis effect (which would turn the water to the right) and flow down the pressure gradient, driven by gravity (which would turn it to the left). Thus, water in a gyre moves along the outside edge of an ocean basin. (b) The hill is formed by Ekman transport. Water turns clockwise (inward) to form the dome, then descends, depressing the thermocline. Can you determine why the center of the hill is offset to the west?

12 Seawater Flows in Six Great Surface Circuits
Geostrophic gyres are gyres in balance between the pressure gradient and the Coriolis effect. Of the six great currents in the world’s ocean, five are geostrophic gyres. (above) A chart showing the names and usual direction of the world ocean’s major surface currents. The powerful western boundary currents flow along the western boundaries of ocean basins in both hemispheres.

13 Boundary Currents Have Different Characteristics
What currents are found within gyres? Western boundary currents – These are narrow, deep, fast currents found at the western boundaries of ocean basins. The Gulf Stream, Japan Current, and the Brazil Current Agulhas Current and the Eastern Australian Current Eastern boundary currents – These currents are cold, shallow and broad, and their boundaries are not well defined. The Canary Current, Benguela Current, and the California Current The West Australian Current and Peru Current

14 Boundary Currents Have Different Characteristics
The general surface circulation of the North Atlantic. The numbers indicate flow rates in sverdrups (1 sv = 1 million cubic meters of water per second). The unit used to express volume in transport in ocean currents is the sverdrup (sv), named in honor of Harald Sverdrup, one of this century’s pioneering oceanographers.

15 Boundary Currents Have Different Characteristics
Eddy formation The western boundary of the Gulf Stream is usually distinct, marked by abrupt changes in water temperature, speed, and direction. (a) Meanders (eddies) form at this boundary as the Gulf Stream leaves the U.S. coast at Cape Hatteras. The meanders can pinch off (b) and eventually become isolated cells of warm water between the Gulf Stream and the coast (c). Likewise, cold cells can pinch off and become entrained in the Gulf Stream itself (d). (C = cold water, W = warm water; blue = cold, red = warm.)

16 Boundary Currents Have Different Characteristics
Water flow in the Gulf Stream and the Canary Current, parts of the North Atlantic gyre.

17 Surface Currents Affect Weather and Climate
General summer air circulation patterns of the east and west coasts of the United States. Warm ocean currents are shown in red; cold currents, in blue. Air is chilled as it approaches the west coast and warmed as it approaches the east coast.

18 Surface Currents Affect Weather and Climate
Wind-induced vertical circulation is vertical movement induced by wind-driven horizontal movement of water. Upwelling is the upward motion of water. This motion brings cold, nutrient rich water towards the surface. Downwelling is downward motion of water. It supplies the deeper ocean with dissolved gases.

19 Nutrient-Rich Water Rises near the Equator
Equatorial upwelling. The South Equatorial Current, especially in the Pacific, straddles the geographical equator. Water north of the equator veers to the right (northward), and water to the south veers to the left (southward). Surface water therefore diverges, causing upwelling. Most of the upwelled water comes from the area above the equatorial undercurrent, at depths of 100 meters or less.

20 Wind Can Induce Upwelling near Coasts
Coastal upwelling. In the Northern Hemisphere, coastal upwelling can be caused by winds from the north blowing along the west coast of a continent. Water moved offshore by Ekman transport is replaced by cold, deep, nutrient-laden water. In this diagram, temperature of the ocean surface is shown in degrees Celsius.

21 Wind Can Also Induce Coastal Downwelling
Wind blowing from the south along a Northern Hemisphere west coast for a prolonged period can result in downwelling. Areas of downwelling are often low in nutrients and therefore relatively low in biological productivity.

22 El Niño and La Niña Are Exceptions to Normal Wind and Current Flow
An El Niño Year A Non-El Niño Year In an El Niño year, when the Southern Oscillation develops, the trade winds diminish and then reverse, leading to an eastward movement of warm water along the equator. The surface waters of the central and eastern Pacific become warmer, and storms over land may increase. In a non-El Niño year, normally the air and surface water flow westward, the thermocline rises, and upwelling of cold water occurs along the west coast of Central and South America.

23 L Moist air rises Rainfall H 180º 0 200 m Surface winds Warm-water
pool Thermocline Upwelling Stepped Art Fig. 9-19a, p. 249

24 Thermohaline Circulation Affects All the Ocean’s Water
The movement of water due to different densities is thermohaline circulation. Because the ocean is density stratified, the densest (heaviest) water is at the bottom. There are five common water masses: Surface water Central water Intermediate water Deep water Bottom water

25 Thermohaline Flow and Surface Flow: The Global Heat Connection
The global pattern of deep circulation resembles a vast “conveyor belt” that carries surface water to the depths and back again. Begin with the formation of North Atlantic Deep Water north of Iceland. This water mass flows south through the Atlantic and then flows over (and mixes with) deep water formed near Antarctica. The combined mass circumnavigates Antarctica and then moves north into the Indian and Pacific ocean basins. Diffuse upwelling in all of the ocean returns some of this water to the surface. Water in the conveyor gradually warms and mixes upward to be returned to the North Atlantic by surface circulation. The whole slow-moving system is important in transporting water and heat.

26 Water Masses May Converge, Fall, Travel across the Seabed, and Slowly Rise
(right) A model of thermocline circulation caused by heating in lower latitudes and cooling in higher latitudes. The thermocline at middle and low latitudes is “held up” by the slow upward movement of cold water. (left) The water layers and deep circulation of the Atlantic Ocean. Arrows indicate the direction of water movement. Convergence zones are areas where water masses approach one another.

27 Chapter 9 in Perspective
In this chapter you learned that ocean water circulates in currents. Surface currents affect the uppermost 10% of the world ocean. The movement of surface currents is powered by the warmth of the sun and by winds. Water in surface currents tends to flow horizontally, but it can also flow vertically in response to wind blowing near coasts or along the equator. Surface currents transfer heat from tropical to polar regions, influence weather and climate, distribute nutrients, and scatter organisms. They have contributed to the spread of humanity to remote islands, and they are important factors in maritime commerce. Circulation of the 90% of ocean water beneath the surface zone is driven by the force of gravity, as dense water sinks and less dense water rises. Because density is largely a function of temperature and salinity, the movement of deep water due to density differences is called thermohaline circulation. Currents near the seafloor flow as slow, river-like masses in a few places, but the greatest volumes of deep water creep through the ocean at an almost imperceptible pace. The Coriolis effect, gravity, and friction shape the direction and volume of surface currents and thermohaline circulation. In the next chapter you will learn about ocean waves. The traveling crests produce the appearance of movement we see in a wave. In an ocean wave, a ribbon of energy is moving at the speed of the wave, but water is not. In a sense, an ocean wave is an illusion. How can you be knocked off your surfboard by an illusion? Well, there’s much to learn!

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