Volkov, Denis L. University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science Library, Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies, Miami, Florida.
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- Ocean observing systems
- Is the ocean warming?
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
The effect of the ocean absorbing the excess heat gained by the Earth's climate system. The ocean covers 71% of the Earth’s surface and, together with the atmosphere, terrestrial waters (lakes, rivers, and groundwater), and different forms of ice (snow, sea ice, ice sheets, and glaciers), comprises the climate system of our planet. Because of the enormous capacity of water to store heat and the ability of oceanic flows to redistribute this heat horizontally and vertically, the ocean’s role in the climate system is crucial. The major source of heat in the climate system is solar radiation. Because the Earth is a sphere, there is a net heat gain near the Equator and a net heat loss at high latitudes. Atmospheric winds and oceanic currents must balance these heat surpluses and deficits by transporting heat from low to high latitudes. The ocean contributes about a quarter of the overall poleward heat transport accomplished by the atmosphere-ocean system; however, because the heat capacity and density of seawater are much greater than those of air (water can absorb more than 4000 times as much heat per unit volume as air), changes in oceanic heat content have profound and long-lasting effects on global and regional climate (Fig. 1). See also: Atmospheric general circulation; Climatology; Ocean; Ocean circulation; Seawater; Solar radiation
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