The Importance of Ocean Currents to Survival on Planet Earth

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Earth has been called the blue planet and not without reason. The ocean covers about three quarters of the earth’s surface and plays a vital role in our survival. It bounty feeds millions of people daily. Its surface absorbs more than ninety five percent of the solar radiation that reaches our planet. It is integral to the water cycle and it regulates our planets climate. But none of these roles would be fulfilled without the movement of the ocean. The currents, ribbons of movement within the greater body of water, provide the means with which our ocean distributes the nutrients and energy necessary for continued life upon earth. What are these currents and why are they so essential to our survival?

The currents at the surface of the ocean are split in to two categories, tidal currents and surface currents. Tidal currents occur around land masses and are influenced mainly by the gravitational pull of our sun and moon. They change rapidly but predictably and contribute to surface currents. Surface currents occur over different areas of earth’s ocean. Two main factors affecting the surface currents are wind and the Coriolis Effect. The Coriolis Effect explains how the rotation of the earth seems to cause a deflection of anything moving above the earth’s surface. It is this effect that causes winds and water in the northern hemisphere to appear to deflect to the right and in the southern hemisphere to deflect to the left. One of the major surface currents is the Gulf Stream. Water in around the Caribbean is warmed by the sun and then carried north and east along the coast North America. These sun warmed waters release their stored energy into the westerly winds and Northern Europe benefits by having a much milder winter than t...

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