a number of very important roles in regulating our climate? From helping to keep our planet warm, to influencing precipitation patterns around the world, to playing a critical role in the global carbon cycle, the Earth’s climate just wouldn’t be the same without our global ocean.
- The Ocean Warms the Planet
The ocean stores radiation from the sun and distributes it globally from the tropics to the polar regions by winds and ocean currents.
- The Ocean Influences Precipitation Patterns
The ocean’s role in producing precipitation is so important that nearly all rain that falls over the Earth’s land originates from the ocean. Heat absorption and ocean evaporation are particularly high in the tropics, which receive more than 15 inches (3m) of rain per year and approximately 8mm of rain per day[sc:1].
- Global Weather Patterns are Controlled by Ocean Currents
Ocean currents bring warm water and rain from the equator to the poles and cold water from the poles toward the equator. These ocean currents help to counteract the high levels of solar radiation that the Earth’s equator receive. Without these currents, it would be much hotter at the equator, much colder at the poles, and our planet’s land would be much less livable[sc:2].
- Photosynthetic Organisms in the Ocean Influence the Global Climate
While much of the information on climate change that we are exposed to focuses heavily on CO2 in the atmosphere, almost half of the carbon dioxide that is being produced by the burning of fossil fuels has been absorbed by the ocean[sc:1].
- The Ocean’s Heat Storing Ability
- The Ocean Influences Regional Climate
Cities located along coastlines also benefit from ocean breezes, a result of the difference in temperature between land and sea, where the land is cooler at night and warmer during the day[sc:1].
Everything is connected
Our planet has an interrelated climate system, where the ocean, atmosphere, and the land all interact with each other, influencing the climate. Whether it is rain that heats the atmosphere, warm air that creates wind, or wind that drives ocean currents and determines the distribution of phytoplankton, changes in one area of the global climate system could undoubtedly alter things in the other areas as well.
With an understanding of this interconnection, it is important to realize the influences that our choices might make on these systems, such as humanity’s choice to continue to burn fossil fuels or to transition to a clean energy future that will safeguard our planet’s climate for future generations.