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Science Objects are two hour on-line interactive inquiry-based content modules that help teachers better understand the science content they teach. This Science Object is the third of four Science Objects in the Ocean’s Effect on Weather and Climate SciPack. It explores ocean circulation patterns and the effect oceans have on climate. Water in the oceans hold a lot of thermal energy (more than an equal amount of land). Throughout the ocean there is a global, interconnected circulation system that transfers this thermal energy across Earth. The shape of ocean basins and adjacent land masses influence the path of circulation. As ocean currents transfer thermal energy to various locations, the temperature of the atmosphere above the ocean is affected. For example, the condensation of water that has been evaporated from warm seas provides the energy for hurricanes and cyclones. When the pattern of thermal energy released into the atmosphere changes, global weather patterns are affected. An example of a large-scale change like this is the El Niño Southern Oscillation, which changes the pattern of thermal energy released into the atmosphere in the Pacific.
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