Topic Thread:      Technology & Science   »   Oceanography & Marine Science   »   Ocean Currents

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Ocean Currents

Some say man’s final frontier lies not in space, but within our oceans. For all our attempts at understanding and dominance, the oceans, which make up over 70 percent of the Earth’s entire surface area, remain largely unexplored. The reason for our inability to pierce the ocean depths in more than a cursory manner can be explained by one word — pressure. While we have been able to overcome the vacuum of space, the crushing pressure exerted within the depths of the oceans restricts our sojourn to the topmost layers of their watery expanse. Only very high-tech deep submergence vehicles (DSVs) and diving suits permit us an all-too-brief encounter with what lies within the darkest recesses of the abyss. The irony is that, as Earth’s most highly evolved organism, we find ourselves largely denied the opportunity to return to the place from which modern science believes all life on Earth derives.

Oceanography is the study of our ocean environment, just as meteorology is the study of our atmosphere. The linkage between the two is inescapable; air-sea interaction is an important area of research within both sciences. Oceanography encompasses topics ranging from the effect of sea-surface winds on ocean chemistry to the study of marine geology and deep-water sediments. Between and inclusive of the upper and lower ocean regions is a tremendously diverse biosphere and a land-sea boundary essential for its maintenance and reproduction — these too fall within the purview of the discipline of oceanography.

Our oceans are a key component of the planetary ecosystem; environmental protection of these crucial assets requires that we understand them, their interactions with the land environment on which we live, and our effects as a species on their well-being. Damage to our oceans, which is proceeding at an alarming rate, may very well have widespread and irreversible consequences for all life on Earth. Can we afford to let this happen? Central to our protection of the marine environment is our understanding of that environment. Oceanography has become a critical area of scientific study in the world today and will increase in its importance as continental resources dwindle and Man focuses upon the sea as a new source for raw material and living space.

Authored by Kenneth L. Anderson.  Original article published 26 April 2003.

Follow links to the right to learn more about surface and deep water ocean currents. At the left margin, Related Links address topics of interest pertaining to oceanography that may help us all better understand and appreciate our oceans and the role oceanographers play in unlocking the secrets of what has long remained one of the most mysterious and foreboding habitats of planet Earth. View the Oceanography SiteMap for a complete list of oceanography and ocean-related topics.

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