Test Design Lighthouse

The oceans and the climate

The sea is of great importance to the Earth's climate system. The high heat capacity of seawater and its special properties of thermal equilibrium like the intermingling of its upper layers, even out extremes of temperature over the course of the year. And the thermal equilibrium between the more northerly and southerly latitudes results from the general cycling of the atmosphere and of the ocean in roughly equal measure.


However the oceans' influence on the climate is not purely thermal; they interact in major biogeochemical cycles, particularly the carbon cycle. Carbon, in the form of carbon dioxide, is a major influence on future climate trends. So to learn about the climate of tomorrow, study of the oceans is indispensable:


In December 2009, during the Climate Change Conference, five traditional tall ships set sail during a parade trip on the wintry Baltic Sea near Copenhagen with the inscription “Act now!” This called and urged tens of thousands of climate activists onto the streets... read more


The oceans are not spread evenly over the earth's surface. Their position and size is constantly changing - at least seen over longer geological periods. The earth's crust is composed of a series of blocks or "massifs" in constant movement ... more

Under the influence of solar energy, the rotation of the earth and the solar and lunar tides, the waters of the ocean are continuously in motion. The main currents in the oceanic system move gigantic masses of water over great distances and ensure ... more

Like gigantic conveyor belts, the major oceanic currents flow at various depths. So-called thermohaline circulation is the driving engine of the deep currents: Cold, salt-laden water is heavier than warm water and sinks into the depths ... more

Because of the spherical shape of the earth, the rate of rotation at a given point on the its surface depends on the latitude of the point. At the equator, the speed of travel is about 1,670 km/h, and at the poles 0 km/h. ... more

Southerly winds drive the surface waters off the coast of Chile and Peru out into the open Pacific. The waters thus driven away from the coastline area are replaced by an upwelling of cold water from depths of 200 to 400 metres. ... more

In most maritime regions, the major currents are largely uninfluenced by local winds. Just like giant conveyors, they transport enormous volumes of water from North to South, from East to West, and enormous amounts of heat energy are distributed ... more

Tropical whirlwind storms contribute to the transportation of heat out of the warmed seas. These storms have different names in different regions, but the mechanism that drives them is the same. ... more

El Niño is a direct result of the close interrelationship between the ocean and the atmosphere in shaping climatic events: At irregular intervals, a warm oceanic current caused by a shifting of high and low-pressure zones in the southwest Pacific ... more

The exchange of gases between the oceans and the atmosphere is a significant global climatic factor. The "greenhouse gas" carbon dioxide is particularly important in this respect. It accounts for only 0.035 percent of the atmosphere, but this figure ... more