Weekday Weather Lesson: The Oceans
In light of this very challenging time and with students out of the classroom, the Doppler 9&10 Weather Team wants to help bring weather lessons to you at home! Doppler 9&10 Meteorologist Haleigh Vaughn and Forecaster Samantha Jacques will be providing weather-related lessons during the week. Haleigh Vaughn will discuss weather lessons and provide a worksheet, while Samantha Jacques will share hands-on science experiments. You can follow along with the Weekday Weather Lessons by completing the weather worksheet at the bottom of the article. To find the hands-on science experiments, search “Science with Samantha” on our homepage. You can also click on “The Four” to find all of our science and weather-related articles.
Today’s lesson is about… the oceans! The majority of Earth’s surface is covered in oceans. According to the National Weather Service, nearly 71% of the Earth’s surface is oceans! Not only are oceans important to wildlife, trading, food consumption, and transportation … but, they also impact the weather! Two factors that directly impact weather are moisture and heat. The oceans provide 97% of the Earth’s water, making it the most influential for moisture being added to the atmosphere. The oceans also have a direct influence to our heat. Heat is transported across the globe, and the oceans have the largest role in that. The ocean water is able to absorb, transport, release, and store heat. According to the National Weather Service, “just the top 10 feet of the ocean surface contains more heat than our entire atmosphere.”
The temperature changes of the ocean can have a direct impact to our weather. The temperature of the ocean and the currents can place us in El Nino or La Nina, and they are also in correlation with hurricanes, typhoons, floods, and droughts.
We’re going to discuss today some of the currents in the oceans and how showers develop from sea breeze!
As many of you know, the Earth is made up of warm spots and cold spots. The sun comes in the most direct contact with the equator, making it a warm spot. The north and south poles, on the other hand, are cold spots. These warm and cold spots generate ocean currents. There are several currents in the ocean. Take a look at the picture provided by the National Weather Service! Across the globe, there are commonalities among ocean currents. Warm water travels away from the equator, towards colder water at the poles. Colder water then travels away from the poles, back to the equator. It’s a constant cycle. Locations on the west coasts of continents have cold ocean currents. Locations on the east coasts of continents have warm ocean currents.
The easiest way to describe it is that Earth is just trying to find the right temperature. It’s always trying to find the perfect “middle ground”. That’s why cold water travels to warm water, and warm water travels to cold water. The Earth is trying to become equal everywhere. But, since we have extremely cold poles, the warm equator, and we are constantly rotating, Earth will ever be truly equal. Never fret … this is good for us! It gives us balance, and it provides us weather.
These constant currents provide weather long term patterns! For example, we have what is called the “Gulf Stream”, which is the ocean current on the southeast United States coast. The Gulf Stream transports warm ocean waters away from the Equator, towards the poles. According to the National Weather Service, the Gulf Stream makes “the overall temperature of Norway and the British Isle is about 18°F higher in the winter than other cities located at the same latitude.”
Now we’ll transition to sea breeze! I’m going to describe sea breeze in the simplest way! Have you ever noticed that it takes water a lot longer to warm up or freeze compared to air? In the summer, the air temperature can go from 80 degrees in the daytime to 45 degrees at night. The water temperature in the summer, however, doesn’t change as rapidly. It takes some time for water to change by a few degrees. That’s the first step to understanding sea breeze.
Picture the sun heating up the ocean and the ground. The ocean will take much, much longer to change temperature. The air and ground, on the other hand, changes temperature much faster. The difference in temperature and density between the ocean and land create a front. This is very similar to a cold front that we might see! The colder, strong air from the ocean moves over the warm ground and it can create precipitation. Especially since there is ample moisture in the atmosphere. They have the moisture, lift, and instability to make showers or a thunderstorm. That’s why there tends to be on and off rain showers in tropical locations.
The opposite happens at night! This is called”land breeze.” As you can see with the picture on the left, provided by the National Weather Service. A “land front” is created at night. The temperature on the land gets very cold at night, while the ocean remains warm. This switches the cycle! This is why you might run into a few showers or thunderstorms across the ocean at nighttime.
All-in-all, the ocean plays a key role in the weather across our globe!
To follow along at home, you can fill out this Weather Worksheet! Write your name and hometown, fill out the answers, and submit your work! Your worksheet can be emailed to email@example.com. Your worksheet might just be shared on social media!