Geography Oceanography, and Weather

Ocean Currents

How do ocean currents affect weather?

The world’s oceans cover about 70 percent of our planet’s surface. Thus, ocean water also absorbs more heat from the Sun than the land does. In addition to this, water absorbs and emits heat energy more slowly than land does. Warm water, therefore, remains warm longer, and cold water remains cold longer. As the world’s ocean waters circulate through the action of currents, this warm or cold water can be transported long distances before it changes temperature. This is an important way that Earth distributes its heat energy. Warm waters in the tropical Atlantic Ocean are carried north as far as England and Scandinavia, for instance, while warm waters in the Indian Ocean circulate down toward Australia and South Africa. Land barriers, such as that formed by Central America, are vital for diverting currents in various directions. It’s because of this that currents from western Africa move toward the Caribbean, and are then deflected north. Without Central America, Great Britain would be as frigidly cold as the remote wastes of northern Siberia.


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