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Motions of the Ocean

Ocean water is always moving.

Water swirls around ocean basins in surface ocean currents. The Gulf Stream is a surface current that runs between the United States and Europe in the North Atlantic Ocean. Smaller spinning rings of water called eddies can form from surface ocean currents.

Ocean water also moves from the deep sea to the ocean surface. Places where this happens are called areas of upwelling. The marine life and the climate can be affected as the cold water makes its way up from the deep. The upwelling water is rich in nutrients so plankton flourishes, and it is very cold, which can lead to cool, damp and foggy weather.

Moving water is found on smaller scales too. Waves travel across the ocean and crash on coastlines. Currents along coastlines have the power to transport sand to new places and to even move swimmers far from their beach towels.

On a global scale, water moves each day with the tides. And over a long time it moves around the world from the shallow to deep oceans because of changes in the water’s density - a process called thermohaline circulation.

The moving water in the oceans transports heat and so it has a large impact on Earth’s climate.

Last modified January 26, 2011 by Jennifer Bergman.

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