Chapter_7_Ocean_Dynamics_V1 - Chapter 7: Ocean Dynamics...

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1 Chapter 7: Ocean Dynamics The field of physical oceanography is devoted to understanding the causes and consequences of fluid motions within the ocean. The fluid motions can be both horizontal and vertical and they can be forced by the action of the winds blowing over the ocean’s surface and by differences in seawater density caused by differences in salt content and temperature. Oceanography is a highly interdisciplinary science and a great many of the concepts developed in this chapter will come up in later chapters where other facets of oceanography are discussed. For example, oceanic primary production depends very much on bringing deep-ocean water that is rich in plant nutrients to the ocean’s sunlit surface where photosynthesis can take place. Bringing deep-ocean water to the surface of the ocean is strongly governed by the actions of the wind-driven surface currents. Of more direct interest to physical oceanographers is the fact that surface currents and deep ocean currents, acting in combination, transport vast quantities of heat from the tropics to high latitudes. Without these ocean currents, the climate of high latitude regions would be much colder and tropical latitude regions would be much warmer. Consequently, understanding global climate requires an understanding the pattern of global ocean currents. This chapter begins with a brief overview of some basic physical patterns that are seen in the atmosphere and ocean. Subsequent sections provide detailed explanations for the observed patterns. The section begins with a discussion of atmospheric dynamics because of the importance of winds in driving the surface ocean currents. The forcing mechanism of deep ocean currents is different than that of surface-ocean currents so there are two separate sections describing these two current types. In the end, it is shown that these two currents are linked together to form a continuous circulation loop know as the conveyor-belt circulation. Before either the wind-driven currents or the deep ocean currents are described there is a lengthy chapter section on the density structure of the ocean because variations in density of seawater in the ocean impact directly or indirectly both the surface and deep ocean currents. Chapter Outline Overview of Observed Physical Patterns Atmospheric Circulation Density Structure of the Ocean Wind-Driven Circulation of the Surface Ocean Thermohaline Circulation of the Deep Ocean
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2 Overview of Observed Physical Patterns Learning Objectives 1. Become generally acquainted with the broad physical patterns observed in the atmosphere and ocean so that subsequent sections can be presented in a broader context. 2. Recognize that surface winds are spatially organized in broad bands that alternate between eastwardly- and westwardly-directed about every 30º of latitude. 3.
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This note was uploaded on 09/28/2008 for the course EAS 1540 taught by Professor Monger during the Fall '07 term at Cornell University (Engineering School).

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Chapter_7_Ocean_Dynamics_V1 - Chapter 7: Ocean Dynamics...

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