Monday, January 10, 2011

Ocean Temperature

The top two meters of the oceans store more heat than the entire atmosphere. So the oceans are a vital buffer in keeping the Earth’s climate equitable. Still tropical waters tend to stratify as they warm, with the hottest water floating on the surface reaching temperatures of up to 25C, while 1000m down, they are a meager 5.C and below this they can plummet to 1-2 degrees.

        These layers are identified as the epilimnion, thermocline and hypolimnion.  Only when they are stirred by wind and currents r become dense due to salt to different layers mix. One possible outcome of global warming might be an even greater stratification of the oceans, polarizing climate zones still further. As it is warm ocean currents bring mild wet weather to some parts such as North West Europe, while cold currents with low evaporation rates cause cold winters in eastern Canada and desert like conditions in Chile, southwest Africa and Western Australia.

 Where cold and warm currents meet, they interact; forming eddies and fronts very similar to those of weather systems. As warm water mixes with nutrient rich cold water, ideal conditions for rapid plankton growth are created, sometimes resulting in spring blooms of Phyto-plankton.  Ocean temperatures and circulation are so important to climate that the complex computer simulations used for weather forecasting have to expend more computer power in monitoring the ocean than the atmosphere.