The water in the ocean is constantly on the move.  These movements, called ocean currents, usually involve large water masses and may flow at the surface or far below it.

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Ocean Current: any continuous flow of water along a broad path in the ocean

Surface Current: an ocean current that generally flows in the upper 1000 m of the ocean

-Caused mainly by the wind. Also by Earth’s rotation and the presence of continents

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Warm and Cold Currents

Warm Currents: flow away from the equator on the western side of ocean basins

Cold Currents: flow toward the equator on the eastern side of ocean basins

*The temperature from these ocean currents is transferred to the atmosphere, thus affecting the climate of the areas around them!

Countercurrents: flow in the opposite direction of the wind-related currents

-Due to the displacement of water caused by the wind-related currents

Density Current: current in the deep ocean, driven by gravity and differences in density (NOT wind!)

Thermal Energy Transfer: Conduction, Convection, Radiation

-Move slowly compared to surface currents

-Only source of oxygen for deep sea life

-Densest water comes from polar regions

*Due to intense cooling and freezing

*Increase in compactness and salinity causes this water to sink toward the bottom of ocean and circulate in the deep ocean.

-In hot, dry climates evaporation changes density (by increasing salinity).

Upwelling: when cold, deep water comes to the surface to replace the surface water that is pushed away by the winds

-Contains large amounts of nutrients that phytoplankton need to grow!

-Very important to life in the ocean!

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