Physical & Chemical Properties of the ocean

There are five different oceans that cover the surface of our world: Atlantic, Arctic, Southern, Indian, and Pacific. The Atlantic can be defined by its Mid-Atlantic Ridge that is between the continents of North America, Europe, and Africa. The Arctic is the northernmost ocean located near the northern pole of the world. The Southern is the “newest” and southernmost ocean located near Antarctica. Lastly, the Pacific is the largest and has many different characteristics that make it unique.

Some major features of the ocean are listed above, but there are a few more. In the Pacific, there is the Mariana Trench. It is the deepest point in our oceans and reaches about eleven thousand meters below the ocean floor. Also, our oceans (especially the Pacific) are filled with islands which are created by hot spots. Within the Atlantic, there is the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It reaches anywhere between two to three kilometers above the ocean floor.

In addition to our knowledge about the Mariana Trench and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, we also know they are formed. They are formed by Plate Tectonics. Plate Tectonics have shaped our oceans in many ways. They are structures that line the earth’s crust that move every so often. The two main types of movements are Convergent and Divergent. Convergent plates push together or move closer forming a subduction. A subduction is when one plate will slide under another and this usually causes a volcanic eruption or possibly an earthquake. Divergent plate boundaries do the opposite; they move apart from one another. When this occurs, you will get land forms like the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The Mariana Trench is a product of Convergent plates on the Earth’s crust. They have impacted our oceans in many ways, like the ones listed above. These plates create land forms on our earth’s crust lining the ocean floor.

Sea water is very unique. We may think that it is one big mixing bowl of water and salt; however, it is much more complex than that. The average salinity of the water is 3.5%. Along with salt and water, the ocean also consists of: chloride, sulfate, sodium, and magnesium. Though these elements may have small traces, they are there! The ocean also consists of 62% nitrogen, 34% oxygen, 1.6% argon, and 1.4% carbon dioxide. The density of our ocean water is influenced by the temperature and the salinity. These two factors determine the water’s vertical position. Sometimes cold water will sink and warm water will rise or vice versa. It all depends on the water in certain areas of the world.

As seen many times out here in the Marshall Islands, the ocean is one large force made up of multiple different sects. These include: winds, currents, and tides. The winds soar across the surface of the water in one direction while the water underneath gradually turns to the right. As you get to a certain point, the water is directly ninety degrees to the wind. The currents are also unique. There are surface currents and deep ocean currents. The surface currents are caused by the wind and are usually within the top one-hundred meters. The deep ocean currents are a part of the thermohaline. The thermohaline is a circulation of the ocean water which causes denser water to sink. Another name for this would be the Great Oceanic Conveyor Belt. Along with winds and currents, we have the tides. There are two main tides: neap and spring tides. The neap tides are weaker and these occur when the gravitational forces of the sun and moon are “perpendicular” to each other. The spring tides are when the sun, moon, and earth are all aligned. The moon can either be directly between the sun and earth or “behind” the earth. Many people are exploring the tides, currents, and winds to try to generate electricity through hydro-power. They are also studying the effects of La Nina and El Nino. These are both movements of water caused by the winds. The La Nina consists of high winds that move the warm water to the west. El Nino consists of weaker winds that move warm waters east.

In conclusion, the forces of the ocean are extremely unique and somewhat complicated. . . but isn’t the entire ocean just a little complicated? These physical and chemical properties set the stage for life. These features that may seem unimportant actually help to sustain life. The tides, winds, and currents are the reason for some of the advances in our sciences today. Although we may not know every detail about the ocean, I believe that is what makes our curious minds want to explore and find new adventures.


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