This activity was created by Prof. Karen Grove (© 1998, 2001 Grove) for use in the Introduction to Oceanography Laboratory course at San Francisco State University. Other educators are welcome to use these exercises in their own classes; please send your comments to: Commercial use prohibited.

Atmospheric and Oceanic Circulation

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Objective: The objective of this lab is to view data that illustrate how the ocean circulates. Oceanic circulation greatly influences climate, which affects us all. The atmosphere and ocean work together to absorb heat and redistribute it from one part of the globe to another. Otherwise, the tropics would get hotter and hotter, and the polar regions would get colder and colder. The ocean circulates by surface currents that are driven mainly by the wind, and by deep currents that are driven mainly by density contrasts in the water produced by temperature and salinity variations. Because the wind drives surface currents, we must also look at how the atmosphere circulates. In this lab we will primarily investigate evidence of surface currents. Because of the large scale of oceanic currents, observations from satellites are often used to study their characteristics and variations.

PART I. Plotting ocean buoy data to show surface currents

PART II. Satellite images and atmospheric / oceanic circulation

PART III. Vertical structure of the equatorial Pacific Ocean


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