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How the Ocean Works

Coastal Science

Although the oceans cover most of Earth, the the tiny sliver of the coastal ocean greatly influences, and is most influenced by, human activity.


Oceanic cycles—chemical, physical and biological—are related to cyclic processes in the Earth’s atmosphere, such as the seasons, El Niño events, and long-term climate changes.

Frozen Ocean

The polar regions are experiencing unprecedented environmental changes that have significant potential impacts on global climate, ecosystems, and society.

Ocean Chemistry

The understanding of chemistry in the ocean is critical because changes can influence marine life, and in turn, human life.

Ocean Circulation

Ocean currents and water properties play large roles in Earth's climate and ecosystems.

Ocean Zones

The ocean water column is made up of five zones: the sunlight (epipelagic), twilight (mesopelagic), midnight (bathypelagic), abyssal (abyssopelagic) and hadal zones (trenches).

Ocean-Atmosphere Connection

The complex connections of these two systems are responsible for Earth's weather and climate.

Seafloor & Below

From plate tectonics to underwater mountain ranges spanning the globe, the seafloor and below encompasses a large field.