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Motions of the Ocean

Ocean water is always moving.

Water swirls around ocean in surface ocean currents. The Gulf Stream is a surface current in the North Atlantic Ocean. Smaller spinning rings of water called eddies can be made 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 upwelling water is rich in nutrients so tiny plants and animals that float in the sea have lots to eat. The water is also cold, which can make the weather cool, damp and foggy.

Water moves in smaller ways too. Waves travel across the ocean and crash on coastlines. Small currents along coastlines can move sand from one beach to another and can move swimmers far from their beach towels too.

Worldwide, water moves each day with the tides. And over a long time it moves around the world from the shallow to deep oceans - a process called thermohaline circulation.

The moving water in the oceans transports heat and so it affects Earth’s climate.

Last modified January 26, 2011 by Jennifer Bergman.

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The Spring 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist, focuses on the ocean, including articles on polar research, coral reefs, ocean acidification, and climate. Includes a gorgeous full color poster!

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