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The Oceans in Motion

Surface Currents

Ocean Currents
Currents

large scale water movements


occur everywhere in ocean
both surface and deep

2 main types: surface currents (10%) and subsurface currents (90%)


surface currents are primarily wind driven
subsurface currents are density driven
other forces affecting currents
Coriolis effect
friction
gravity
thermal expansion

geologic
shape of ocean basin

Formation of Surface Currents


surface currents =horizontal movement of the oceans surface waters

driven by: a) thermal expansion & gravity, b) winds and c) combination


extend to approximately 100-150m depth (depending on strength of winds)

a) thermal expansion and gravity

equatorial surface waters receive more solar radiation than polar surface waters
warmer equatorial waters expand (thermal expansion) higher elevation
colder polar waters contract lower elevation
gravity pulls the waters from area of higher elevation (equator) to areas of lower

elevation (poles),water moves downhill

Formation of Surface Currents

(contd)

b) Winds (What creates winds?)

the primary force setting surface oceans in motion

Tradewinds push surface


waters toward the equator

Westerlies push suface


waters toward the poles

VisualizationoftheCorioliseffect:
http://www.globalchange.umich.edu/globalchange1/current/lectur
es/samson/weather_patterns/Coriolis.html
http://
www.classzone.com/books/earth_science/terc/content/visualizations/
es1904/es1904page01.cfm?chapter_no=visualization
Wind:

http://www.classzone.com/books/earth_science/terc/content/visu

alizations/es1905/es1905page01.cfm?chapter_no=visualization

Formation of Surface Currents

(contd)

b) winds (contd)

add in the Coriolis Effect

doesnt only deflect (45) surface water


that wind is in direct contact with, but
causes each successively deeper layer
of water to be deflected as well;

called the Ekman Spiral,

wind
0

150

extends down to approximately 150m


(depending on strength of winds)

wind

over the total 150 m depth, the average


flow of water is at a 90 angle to the
direction of the wind (right in N.
hemisphere, left in S. hemisphere)

this net flow of water is called


Ekman Transport

see figs. 7.15a,b (Intro 7e) or 7.25a,b (Fund. 4e)

net flow
Ekman Transport
Ekman Spiral

1
2

WhatwouldhappenedintheNorthernHemisphere?

Formation of Surface Currents

(contd)

c) combine effects of thermal expansion &


gravity (pulling water masses) and winds
(pushing water masses)

end up with circular flow

clockwise in the northern hemisphere


counter clockwise in the southern
hemisphere

circular pattern flowing along the edge of


basins are called gyres
Gyres = large circular, wind-driven, oceanic flow

http://oceanworld.tamu.edu/students/currents/currents3.htm

Surface Currents
major surface currents:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

N. Atlantic Gyre
S. Atlantic Gyre
N. Pacific Gyre
S. Pacific Gyre
Indian Ocean Gyre
Westwind Drift (or Antarctic Circumpolar Current)

see fig. 15.2 (Intro 7e)


or 11.2 (Fund. 4e)
NASA

Major oceanic circulation systems

Other Effects of Wind on Water Movement


a) convergences and divergences

convergences
~
~
~
~

results when two wind-driven surface currents collide OR


when a wind-driven surface current collides with a land mass
results in downwelling
typically areas of low nutrients and productivity

two surface currents colliding

surface current colliding with land mass

Other Effects of Wind on Water Movement

(contd)

a) convergences and divergences (contd)

divergences
~
~
~
~
~

results when two wind-driven surface currents move away


from each other OR
when a wind-driven surface current moves away from a land mass
results in upwelling
typically areas of high nutrients and productivity

two surface currents pushed in opposite directions

surface current pushed away from land mass

Other Effects of Wind on Water Movement

(contd)

b) permanent convergences and divergences


1. ocean zones:

Convergences - downwelling
5 major permanent zones of convergence
tropical convergence at equator
N. subtropical convergence 30 to 40 N and S
S. subtropical convergence mark the center of the gyres
Antarctic convergence at 50 S
Arctic convergence at 50 N

Divergences - upwelling
3 major permanent zones of divergence
N. tropical divergence
at either side of the tropical convergence
S. tropical divergence
Antarctic divergence

see figs. 8.11 (Intro 7e) or 7.17 (Fund. 4e)

Other Effects of Wind on Water Movement

(contd)

b) permanent convergences and divergences (contd)


2. coastal zones:

Divergences - upwelling
off west coasts of Africa and South America
Tradewinds push water off shore
end up with divergence along the coasts
get continuous upwelling along these coasts

big fish catch!! very productive fisheries

Other Effects of Wind on Water Movement


c) seasonal convergences and divergences
coastal

off west coast of North America


winter convergence
coastal wind blows from the south
net water transport onshore (convergence)
get downwelling

summer divergence
coastal wind blows from the north
net water transport offshore (divergence)
get upwelling
i.e. San Francisco fisheries and fog

(contd)