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How do oceans affect climate

The big bathtub

The Oceans are able to store enormous amounts of heat because of their high heat capacity. In fact, a 3.2 meter (10.5 feet) layer of ocean water has the ability to hold as much heat as the entire atmosphere!

The oceans have a high thermal "inertia" - this means that they are resistant to changes in temperature. It takes four times as much energy to heat water by 1 degree C than it does to heat air.

sst The image to the right shows Average sea surface temperatures for August from 1971 to 2000. Both the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans have "warm pools," or regions of very warm water (28 C is about 82 F). The Indian Ocean is also very warm. In these regions, the warm ocean water heats the air, leading to convection and storms. The warm waters encourage hurricane and typhoon growth, as well as the monsoon season in India. The Kurishio and Gulf Stream currents push relatively warm water northward in the western Pacific and Atlantic. On the eastern sides of these oceans, you can see the effects of upwelling cold water.

Next page   -> ocean circulation

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