Climate and the Oceans

Climate and the Oceans

Geoffrey K. Vallis
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: STU - Student edition
Pages: 232
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Climate and the Oceans
    Book Description:

    The oceans exert a vital moderating influence on the Earth's climate system. They provide inertia to the global climate, essentially acting as the pacemaker of climate variability and change, and they provide heat to high latitudes, keeping them habitable.Climate and the Oceansoffers a short, self-contained introduction to the subject. This illustrated primer begins by briefly describing the world's climate system and ocean circulation and goes on to explain the important ways that the oceans influence climate. Topics covered include the oceans' effects on the seasons, heat transport between equator and pole, climate variability, and global warming. The book also features a glossary of terms, suggestions for further reading, and easy-to-follow mathematical treatments.

    Climate and the Oceansis the first place to turn to get the essential facts about this crucial aspect of the Earth's climate system. Ideal for students and nonspecialists alike, this primer offers the most concise and up-to-date overview of the subject available.

    The best primer on the oceans and climateSuccinct and self-containedAccessible to students and nonspecialistsServes as a bridge to more advanced material

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4062-5
    Subjects: General Science, Physics, Environmental Science, Aquatic Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
    (pp. 1-21)

    To appreciate the role of the ocean in climate, we need to have a basic understanding of how the climate system itself works, and that is the purpose of this chapter. Our emphasis here is the role of the atmosphere—we don’t pay too much attention to the oceans as we’ll get more of that (lots more) in later chapters—and we assume for now that the climate is unchanging. So without further ado, let’s begin.

    Earth is a planet with a radius of about 6,000 km, moving around the sun once a year in an orbit that is almost...

    (pp. 22-40)

    We now start to look at the ocean(s)¹ in a little more detail, albeit in a rather descriptive manner, as a precursor to the more mechanistic or dynamical description, or “explanation,” that we try to provide in chapter 4. That is, in this chapter we describe what’s going on but with no underlying organizing principle—with no plot, one might say.

    There is a sense in which all explanations are really descriptions; what we may think of as an explanation is really a description at a more general level. nevertheless, the distinction is useful, at least in science: an explanation...

    (pp. 41-74)

    We now begin our quest of providing an explanation for how and why the ocean circulates the way it does and how and why it affects the climate. In this chapter, we’ll explain some of the basic dynamical principles that determine the circulation; in the next chapter, we’ll apply these principles to the circulation itself. The current chapter is a little more mathematical than the others in this book, but it requires no more sophistication on the part of the reader—perhaps less in fact. Nevertheless, some readers may prefer to read the later chapters first, referring back to the...

    (pp. 75-104)

    The climate in general and the oceans in particular are complicated systems, and if one is not careful it is easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees. For that reason, a useful philosophy is to begin with an austere picture of the phenomenon at hand and then gradually add layers of complexity and detail. The first picture will be a simplification, but if it is based on sound scientific principles, then it will provide a solid foundation for what follows, and it will become possible to work toward an understanding of the system as it really is....

    (pp. 105-127)

    The ocean plays a number of roles in our present climate, and in this chapter we discuss two of the most important:

    The ocean moderates the climate by taking in heat when the overlying atmosphere is hot, storing that energy and releasing heat when the atmosphere is cold.

    The ocean redistributes heat in the large-scale ocean circulation.

    In addition, the ocean generally has a lower albedo than land, so that if all the ocean were replaced by land, the planet as a whole would be cooler. In some contrast, when the ocean freezes it forms sea ice, which has a...

    (pp. 128-155)

    In this chapter we look at climate variability, and in particular climate variability that is associated in one way or another with the ocean. This condition is not very restrictive because nearly all forms of climate variability on timescales of months to decades are affected by, or even caused by, the ocean. Even in cases in which the underlying cause of the variability is nonoceanic, the ocean may modulate the variability and determine its timescale, and in many ways we can think of the ocean as the pacemaker of climate. We won’t talk about climate variability on timescales of centuries...

    (pp. 156-204)

    In this final chapter we discuss a topic of great current and likely future interest, namelyglobal warming. In the first half of the chapter, we talk about warming quite generally: what it is, what the evidence is for it, what the consequences might be, and what the level of uncertainty might be about future warming. In the second half of the chapter, we concentrate on the role and effects of and on the ocean. We find that the evidence unambiguously points to a single culprit for global warming, namely the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Although...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 205-210)
  12. Further Reading
    (pp. 211-214)
  13. Glossary
    (pp. 215-222)
  14. References
    (pp. 223-228)
  15. Index
    (pp. 229-231)