I often see various quotes from environmentalists, scientists and museums about the ocean:
‘We are all connected to the ocean’
‘The ocean keeps the Earth livable’
‘Without the ocean, life cannot continue’
‘Without the ocean, life could not have begun’
It seems we live on an ocean planet. So, what is it and what does it do? How many oceans are there, and why is it so important to us and our world?
Recently I visited the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington DC, and learnt some fascinating facts about Earths global ocean.
Ocean or oceans?
It is said that a single ocean spans the earth-
However, if there is only one ocean, why does it have so many names?
Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Arctic Ocean and Southern Ocean?
The ocean spans several basins. People have given these basins different names, and each basin has different characteristics. But all are interconnected as a single, complex body of water. One vast global system.
How big is the ocean?
The ocean covers 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and is immensely deep. Its volume accounts for more than 95 percent of the plants living space. Its enormous volume of water regulates temperatures and drives water systems.
Without the ocean, the thermometer would swing wildly from scorching by day to freezing at night.
Earth’s oxygen factory?
Take two breaths … one is from the ocean.
The ocean produces at least half of the Earth’s oxygen, mostly from microscopic organisms too tiny to see.
These ocean organisms contribute as much oxygen as all the green plants on the land.
The ocean also absorbs carbon dioxide (C02), a greenhouse gas that affects Earth’s climate.
The oceans blanket of water hides a landscape more varied and dramatic than any on land?
Apparently, if you want to see the Earth’s deepest valley, longest mountain range or biggest volcano, you’d better wear a bathing suit.
If you could draw away the oceans water, you’d see a rugged and remarkable terrain. There are towering cliffs, flat plains stretching out of sight, and vents spewing heat and chemicals from deep underground.
What would Earth be like without an ocean?
All organisms need water to exist. Without the ocean, this planet would be a barren desert. It would not have a stable and moderate climate and it would not have an ample oxygen supply.
And it would probably not have you.
Data provided by Earthstar Geographic’s, WorldStat International, Inc, NOAA.
Smithsonian Natural History Museum
10th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW