Ocean current is a continuous movement of ocean water. It helps to carry water from one ocean to another across the Earth. The water can move for many kilometers in the oceans. There is surface water and deep water in the ocean. The surface water can have its own circulation which contributes to the overall circulation across the globe. This article will tell you the 13 Causes of Ocean Surface Circulation Currents. By knowing the factors that affect the circulation, you will understand the working of the ocean better. Furthermore, you will realize the many impact this surface circulation has for the world.
1. Trade Winds
Trade winds are the winds that blow in the direction from east to west. These winds have strong effect on creating ocean currents. The Trade winds are mostly strong during the winter time.
Westerlies are winds that are similar to the Trade winds. They can also cause ocean water surface to move creating strong currents. However, the Westerlies winds blow in the direction from west to east.
3. Coriolis Forces
Coriolis forces is another cause of ocean surface circulation currents. These forces can cause the ocean currents to move in a certain way. Every layer in the water would move at different rate of velocity to the right direction. Thus the ocean currents would form a circular or spiral currents.
4. Landform Position
Landform position can also affect the currents. The position of a landform can create a blockage to the flow of the ocean water. So, as a result gyres are formed. There are five major types of gyres which include the South Pacific Gyre, South Atlantic Gyre and Indian Ocean Gyre. (Read: Characteristics of Ocean Gyres)
5. Density Differences
Next cause for ocean surface circulation is density differences in the ocean water. When a water is heavier, then it will eventually sinks deeper into the ocean. It causes lighter water to move upward which creates an ocean current.
The temperature around the ocean area can affect its surface water. It can either warm the water or cool it down. Therefore, it contributes to the ocean current where the warm water sinks and the cool water rises. (Read: Characteristics of Ocean Temperature)
This next cause is salinity. Salinity is the amount of salt in the ocean water. The more salt there is, the heavier the water which affects the density. So salinity also affects the switching movement between warm water going down while cool water going up. This switching movement is what creates ocean surface circulation too.
8. Ocean Storms
There are many storms in the ocean. Some storms are strong enough to move the water surface. In return, the rapid movement of water during a storm can also create a circulation on the ocean surface.
9. Underwater Earthquake
Underwater earthquake is quite frequent. But still, some are big enough to generate tsunamis. When this kind of earthquake happens the ocean surface water undergoes rapid circulation currents since the water are all moving inland. (Read: Destruction of Ocean Floor)
10. Gulf Stream Wind
The Gulf Stream has a type of wind that can affect surface water circulation. It helps to move a circulation of warm water in the north direction. It may also move it towards the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.
11. Ekman Layer Transport
The Ekman layer transport is the name for the process whereby the wind affects the surface layer of the ocean. The Ekman layer transport creates up welling and convergence. Both are the rising and the sinking movement of ocean surface in the water. (Read: Unique Characteristics of Indian Ocean)
12. Thermohaline Circulation
Thermohaline circulation is one of the largest circulation in the ocean. It keeps the deepst parts of the ocean with fresh water from the surface. It helps the movement in the water surface circulation in the ocean.
13. Bottom Topography
This last cause is bottom topography. The topography of an ocean actually has a large impact on the currents in the ocean. When the topography is deep, the the water will move downward. On the other hand, if the bottom rises then the water will mostly move upward. The surface water will continue to circulate as the bottom water rises.
Effects of Ocean Surface Circulation Currents
So after reading some of the causes that contribute to the surface currents movement, it would also be wise to know what effects they create. The following are the effects that are caused by the ocean surface circulation currents:
- Rainfall: The circulation current can affect the amount of a rainfall within a certain region. During a specific period, there could be a lack of rainfall. But in other times there could be a downpour.
- Storm: Another effect from the current is creating powerful ocean storms. The surface water on the ocean can affect the temperature and the strength of a specific storm in the ocean. As the storm moves inland, it could either be weak or not depending on the currents it received from the ocean.
- Wind Patterns: Surface currents can affect the winds too. The temperature of the surface water can give an impact on the direction to where the wind is blowing.
- Climate: Ocean currents heavily affect the overall climate over a certain region. It maintains the natural climate with the regular circulation. For example, the Gulf Stream is responsible for maintaining the climate in Europe. (Read: Impacts of Ocean Currents on Climate)
- Monsoon: Ocean surface can cause a variation in the monsoon season. The monsoon season also depends on the condition of the water in the ocean.
- Regulation in Carbon Dioxide Level: Due to the surface circulation on the water, the ocean can still absorb some carbon dioxide from the air and regulate it into the deeper part of the ocean.
After knowing the causes and the effects from ocean surface circulation currents, you may start to see the ocean in a different way. The ocean does not work alone. There are many things that affect its inner system to keep the natural order continue. Ocean currents affect everything that is in this Earth.