The Science of ...
ceanography is the science of understanding the oceans,
how they work, how they came into existence, how they affect our daily
lives, the creatures that live in them, and how they may be impacted by
changes caused by human influences. Over 70% of the surface of Planet Earth
is covered by sea water, hence the name the "Blue Planet". Oceanography
is concerned not only with the vast bodies of water named "oceans" such
as the Pacific and Atlantic, but all the "edges" of the oceans as well,
where the oceans interact with the other components of our planet. These
include the coastlines, estuaries, and marshes where fresh water continually
enters the oceans; the surface of the ocean where weather is made and dust
settles down; and the deep dark cold ocean bottom which has springs of
hot water, where chemicals and even lava spews into it from deep down in
the earth's crust.
Since the ocean is not always a friendly or convenient place to conduct
research, oceanographers have had to develop sophisticated
and techniques that allow them to probe the ocean with research vessels,
satellites and autonomous vehicles.
Ocean water, in which just about every known element including gold
is dissolved, is characteristically salty. It is in continuous motion even
at the greatest depths. Oceans sustain life ranging from the largest whales
which are bigger than any dinosaurs, to the tiniest one-celled floating
plants which harness the energy of sunlight to feed the rest of the creatures,
just as plants do on land.
Oceanography and Society
are intimately linked: oceans generate weather ranging from cold foggy
days to angry tropical hurricanes. Resources such as minerals and energy
are brought forth from the oceans, and they provide major highways for
international commerce. Oceans are an important source of food, including:
fish, shellfish, and even seaweed.
biology, chemistry and physics of the oceans is important as well as its
history (geology). Most university departments and research institutes
are sub-divided into these component sciences. The biological, chemical
and physical sciences are described in greater detail under NSF's Ocean
Section. The geological sciences are described in greater detail under
the Marine Geosciences Section. Most people
are trained primarily in one of these "basic" sciences, but the most important
characteristic of an oceanographer is to have a good grasp of all these
sciences -- because in the ocean environment everything is interconnected.
To find out more about current and future research in the ocean sciences
disciplines click on the following links: