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Interesting Things About the Ocean

We don’t know a lot about the ocean, and we really should learn. Our oceans are very important. They regulate climate, provide us with food, and help fix the Earth’s carbon cycle. There are so many things about the ocean that we take for granted. Today’s article talks about some of the interesting (and sometimes alarming) things you may not know about Earth’s largest bodies of water.



There are actually two causes of sea level rise.


The first is the most obvious. Melting ice caps and glaciers release their water into the ocean, which causes the water to rise. The other cause of sea level rise higher temperatures, which warm up the ocean water and cause it to expand.


El Nino and La Nina are linked to the Pacific Ocean.


El Nino occurs when the trade winds over the Pacific weaken, causing warm water to be pushed back against the American coasts. This leads to drier conditions in the northern United States and wetter conditions in the Southeast. La Nina occurs when those trade winds are stronger than usual, causing upwelling of colder waters along the American coasts. This leads to wetter conditions in the northern United States and drought in the southern portions of the country. These fluctuations are just one example of how our oceans can change the weather.


There is a huge garbage patch on the Pacific Ocean.


Not surprisingly, it is known as the “Pacific garbage patch.” This massive patch of floating waste is twice the size of Texas and contains 1.8 trillion individual pieces of plastic. Efforts are underway to clean up the mess, but it is quite an undertaking. We all need to think about the waste we are producing, because we can do better than we’re doing.


It helps provide oxygen for Earth.


That’s right, roughly half the Earth’s oxygen is produced by our oceans. Most of this comes from plankton, primarily microscopic plants, algae, and bacteria that fix carbon and create oxygen in its place. If this plankton were to go extinct... Well, we’ll get into that a little later in this article.


It regulates climate.


We have already partially discussed this with El Nino and La Nina, but there is more to the story. The thermohaline cycle is a large set of rising and falling points in the ocean. Warm, light water rises to the surface and cold, heavy water sinks to the bottom, helping regulate warmer temperatures on Earth. Climate scientists believe that stalls in this cycle are linked to ice ages and colder events on the planet. One of the causes of this stalling is a large influx of glacial meltwater, sort of like we’re seeing today.


We know very little about it.


We actually know more about space than we do about the ocean. According to NASA, less than 10 percent of the ocean has been mapped by sonar and only 35 percent has been mapped by other modern methods. We can do better than this!


It’s acidifying, and that’s not good.


Our oceans absorb about 35 percent of Earth’s atmospheric carbon, and the amount of carbon being absorbed is rising as a result of human actions. This carbon is causing the drop of our oceans’ pH, as well as a drop in carbonate ions. These ions are needed to help build shells in crustaceans and coral. Fish also have a hard time detecting predators and prey in acidic oceans. Scientists believe this could lead to a collapse of the oceanic food web, which is not good news for anyone. Remember what I said about those plankton and the planet’s oxygen levels?


There are actually five oceans now.


As I kid, I was taught there were four oceans: the Pacific, Atlantic, Arctic, and Indian. Recently, however, geographers have recognized the unique nature of the aquatic territory surrounding Antarctica. These waters are now known as the Antarctic Ocean.


Some sea creatures are thought to predict earthquakes.


According to a Japanese legend, appearances of the mysterious oarfish, a deepwater fish that rarely comes to the surface, are a sign of something wrong under the water and usually signify the coming of an earthquake. In fact, the fish is sometimes known as the Earthquake Fish. Dozens of oarfish were reportedly seen just before the huge March, 2011, earthquake in Japan, and they have been spotted on the coast of Chile before large quakes, as well. This phenomenon, however, has not been backed up by scientific studies, so it remains a legend.


Several mystery noises have come from it.


The ocean is a virtual gold mine of mysterious noises, some of which we have no explanation for. Two sounds, the infamous Bloop (look it up) and cooing noise known as Julia, were both linked to the movement of ice sheets in Antarctica. Other noises, like the mysterious Upsweep, are harder to explain. The Upsweep is a series of upsweeping sounds recorded in the Pacific and is thought to be linked to volcanic activity, but this does not explain its seasonal nature. This is a particularly fascinating topic and one that I might write about further in another article.


As a geographer, I find Earth’s oceans fascinating. I always remember the day a tropical storm was off the coast of Florida and the water along the beach suddenly got icy cold after being warm all season. Apparently researchers have discovered that hurricanes dig deeper into the water than first thought, which could account for this upwelling of colder water. Whatever the cause, I froze my butt off that day.


SOURCES


The Ocean Clean-Up- www.theoceancleanup.com

The Science Times- www.sciencetimes.com

Live Science- www.livescience.com

Mental Floss- www.mentalfloss.com

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