The ocean sustains life on this planet. It impacts all humankind in this global society. It dramatically affects climate systems and makes the earth a hospitable place to live. Coupled to the atmosphere, it continually recycles air and water, purifying them in the process. It removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, buffering global change caused by an enhanced greenhouse affect. It is a source of energy and resources. It is a repository of world's biological diversity, and a potential source for a cure for cancer and AIDS. It has been a source of wander and inspiration throughout time.Earth is a unique planet, possibly one of a few in the galaxy that has water. Nearly 71% of it's surface is ocean. From space Earth is brilliantly blue, white in places with clouds and ice, sometimes swirling with storms. At it's surface the ocean is in constant motion with powerful currents that stretch for thousands of miles and towering waves. Beneath the oceans surface lie hidden mountain ranges, vast trenches tens of thousands of feet deep, immense hot springs, and huge volcanoes spewing molten rock in massive eruptions.
We have only recently appreciated
the importance of the ocean in global processes. Once thought of as an
infinite sink for the disposal of waste and an infinite source for fish,
we have come to realize that the ocean is a fragile resource. Our misuse
of the ocean has begun to affect ocean processes on a global scale. We
now find that our dependence on and misuse of the ocean has resulted in
a cascade of environmental degradation that is only now coming to light.
Reversing the environmental impact of humankind on the ocean is slowed
by economics, politics and general ignorance.
This is where Oceanography comes in. Oceanography is the scientific study of all aspects of the ocean environment, so that we can harness the resources of the ocean without endangering it or ourselves. Oceanographers work to understand the ocean, it's various environments and how they function. Using ships, submersibles, and satellites, scientists collect the information that is required to understand fundamental ocean processes. They study physical processes such as the motions of currents and waves, chemical processes such as the exchange of oxygen with the atmosphere, geological processes such as the formation of beaches, and biological processes such as ocean productivity. Oceanographers have made tremendous progress in understanding these and other processes. Still, many of the ocean's secrets remain hidden. Through this interdisciplinary approach to studying ocean processes, ocean scientists are beginning to help politicians and resource managers to implement policies that will preserve the ocean for future generations.
The Science of the Ocean