Understanding Ocean and Climate

© S.Lowell/Tara Expéditions

Aiming to propose an accessible synthesis of knowledge on the subject, these new resource documents explain the connections between climate and the oceans. They were created as part of the Ocean and Climate Platform, with scientific supervision by a group of non-governmental and research organizations including Tara, and with the support of UNESCO.

Divided into two main themes, “The Role of the Ocean in Climate” and “The Impacts of Climate Change on the Ocean,” these documents explain how the Ocean captures solar energy, how it helps distribute heat on the Earth’s surface, and the consequences of climate change. The emphasis is to update representations on this subject matter, especially with the help of computer graphics. These documents can be used in middle school ( ) through high school, in biology, physics, chemistry and even geography classes. You will find them on the Pedagogical Resources page of the education section.

The role of the Ocean in climate:

The Ocean – thermostat of the planet

Accompanied by 3 explanatory graphics, this resource displays the Ocean’s central role in the regulation and control of major global natural balances. It places particular emphasis on the fact that 93% of the energy captured by the Earth is found in the Ocean. This document also updates the representation of heat flow, focusing on the descent of cold water in Antarctica and emphasizing the connections with the major surface currents, thus providing the most complete picture possible.

The Ocean – origin of life

The 2 mechanisms of partial CO2 absorption by the Ocean from the atmosphere are presented here. The first mechanism, the carbon pump, is physical in nature: 90% of excess CO2 is captured by dissolution and stored for 1,000 years in deep waters. The second is biological in nature: plankton captures only 10% of excess CO2, but stores it for a long time in the sediments. 2 computer graphics demonstrate these mechanisms in an entertaining way.

From the Ocean to the clouds

This document puts the Ocean at the center of the water cycle since it is in fact the main driving force. Computer graphics show the importance in this cycle of the oceans which contain not less than 97.5% of the water on the planet.

The impacts of climate change on the Ocean:

Ocean acidification

This document, accompanied by diagrams of the reactions involved, summarizes the mechanism of acidification and what is known about it in 2015.

Decline of marine biodiversity

The final documents report on the impacts – already-recognized — that climate change has on species biodiversity: from their migration and adaptation to their disappearance, all scenarios are discussed.

An Ocean under pressure

The different mechanisms already affected by the increase in greenhouse gases are summarized in this report. Rising sea level and intensification of weather phenomena are all factors that have an impact on the geography of coastal areas. These changes cause population migration and coastal erosion among other things.
To learn more about the Ocean Climate Platform which offers these same educational resources, as well as scientific reports and a calendar of conferences, workshops and international dates on the theme of the Ocean and Climate, click here.
To access Ocean/Climate documents, click here, and select the following theme(s): “Climate,” “Ocean/Climate,” or “Oceanography.”

Hélène Marchand

 Related articles:

- UNESCO launches the Ocean and Climate Platform 2015

- Personalized help for teachers

- Tara, member of the Ocean & Climate platform