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Ocean Current Definition

An ocean current is a continuous, directed movement of sea water. It can be generated by wind, the Coriolis effect, or density.

View Lesson on Climate Zones & Ocean Currents
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Climate Zones & Ocean Currents

Fun Facts

  • A global system of ocean currents is created when water of low temperature and high salinity sinks to the ocean floor and is replaced by surface water, which then becomes cold and/or salty.
  • Surface wind can create ocean currents about a hundred meters underwater.
  • Ocean currents influence regional climates, since water stores heat that can be slowly distributed around the world.

Why Do We Need To Know About Ocean Current

Learning about ocean currents helps us understand why oceans are important for all the sea animals and plants. Ocean currents move water around, which carries food and tiny living things across the sea. This helps feed different sea creatures and keeps the ocean healthy. Scientists who study the ocean use this information to learn more about sea life, from the smallest plankton to the biggest whales, and how they live together in the ocean.

This knowledge is also useful for studying the weather and the air around us. By knowing about ocean currents, scientists can figure out how pollution moves in the air and how to stop bad things from happening to our environment. Understanding ocean currents is important not just for studying the ocean but also for keeping our planet safe.

Frequently Asked Questions

Describe the relationship between the Sun and climate zones.
The angle of the Sun causes its light to strike different latitudes with different intensities. For example, the Sun’s rays strike the Equator with greater intensity than they do the North Pole. Additionally, the sun is always directly over the Equator, as a result, this area is always much warmer than the North Pole.
What are three climate zones and where do they occur?
The Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn are found at 23.5° N latitude and 23.5° S latitude. The Equator lies in the middle of these two latitudes, in the area known as the Tropical Zone. The Temperate Zones cover the area between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle and the area between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle. The Polar Zones are the areas from the Arctic or Antarctic Circles to the North and South Poles.
How do ocean and air currents help regulate the temperature of Earth?
Ocean and air currents work together to distribute heat and moisture around Earth. Less-dense air and water rise; denser air and water sink. This creates a series of circulation systems that span the globe. These systems typically flow clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.
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