Atmosphere & Ocean Connection

global wave
The ocean and atmosphere are linked together and changes in one affect the other. Photo courtesy of NASA.



The Earth's ocean and atmosphere are locked in such an intricate embrace--as one changes so changes the other. At the interface between air and sea, there is a constant flow of information, as vast amounts of energy and chemicals (in the form of gases and aerosols) are continually being exchanged. If energy and chemicals are the languages that program the behavior of atmosphere and ocean, then regional and global scale climate variations are the outputs from this complex system. If scientists could learn to better interpret the "dialogue" between ocean and atmosphere, they could do a better job of predicting regional and global climate change.


Since the 1960s, scientists have developed sophisticated computer models to help them understand the ocean's role in moderating climate. Yet many questions remain unanswered. In recent decades, the ocean has partially offset the anticipated global warming due to rising greenhouse gas levels by exerting a cooling effect on climate. But, over the long run, scientists don't know whether the ocean's cooling influence will persist. Some theorize that if the ocean's circulation system changes, then the ocean could contribute to, or even amplify, global warming. At the heart of global-scale oceanography are the following questions: How will global warming affect life in the ocean? How do ocean temperature, chemistry, and biology influence climate? Are human activities contributing to changes in the marine environment and, in turn, how might these changes feed back to affect us?

Source: NASA Earth Observatory. Retrieved from http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/OceanClimate/ on November 19, 2010.
Last modified: Wednesday, 9 May 2012, 8:50 AM