Ocean Circulation and Waves


Ocean Circulation Topic outline:

  1. Surface Currents – driving force
    1. flow within a gyre
      1. Eckman spiral
      2. Eckman transport
    2. geostrophic gyres (currents)
    3. boundary and transverse currents
  2. Specific ocean currents
    1. Antarctic Ocean circulation
      1. Westwind drift / Eastwind drift
    2. Atlantic Ocean circulation
      1. Gulf Stream
      2. climate influences
  3. Thermohaline Circulation – driving force
    1. water masses


Ocean Waves Topic outline:

  1. Wind-generated waves
    1. factors influencing wave size
  2. Wind waves approaching shore
    1. breaking waves
    2. surf zone


Interesting places to visit:

Great graphics: http://seawifs.gsfc.nasa.gov/OCEAN_PLANET/HTML/oceanography_currents_1.html


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: http://www.noaa.gov/


Gulf Stream: http://daac.gsfc.nasa.gov/CAMPAIGN_DOCS/OCDST/classic_scenes/06_classics_boundary.html


El Nino info: http://www.ogp.noaa.gov/enso/


Some great cartoon movies: http://www.brainpop.com/science/light/waves/index.weml


Good surfing photos and videos: http://www.ocwaves.com/


When you are finished with this topic, you should be able to these questions:

  1. What would the pattern of ocean surface currents look like if there were no continents on Earth?
  2. What causes the Ekman spiral?
  3. What is Ekman Transport and what effect does it have on geostrophic gyres?
  4. What climatic influences does the Gulf Stream have?
  5. What are the driving forces of surface and thermohaline circulation?
  6. How are ocean waves generated?
  7. What causes waves to break as they approach the shore?