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The directions of the circulation are governed by factors including the shapes of the continents and Earth's rotation (the Coriolis effect).Deep-sea currents, known as the global conveyor belt, carry cold water from near the poles to every ocean.
Submarine earthquakes arising from tectonic plate movements under the oceans can lead to destructive tsunamis, as can volcanoes, huge landslides or the impact of large meteorites.
A wide variety of organisms, including bacteria, protists, algae, plants, fungi, and animals, live in the sea, which offers a wide range of marine habitats and ecosystems, ranging vertically from the sunlit surface and shoreline to the great depths and pressures of the cold, dark abyssal zone, and in latitude from the cold waters under polar ice caps to the colourful diversity of coral reefs in tropical regions.
Other human uses of the sea include trade, travel, mineral extraction, power generation, warfare, and leisure activities such as swimming, sailing, and scuba diving. The sea is important in human culture, with major appearances in literature at least since Homer's Odyssey, in marine art, in cinema, in theatre and in classical music.
Symbolically, the sea appears as monsters such as Scylla in mythology and represents the unconscious mind in dream interpretation.
Five oceanic divisions are usually defined: Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Arctic, and Southern; the last two listed are sometimes consolidated into the first three.
However, the word "sea" can also be used for many specific, much smaller bodies of seawater, such as the North Sea or the Red Sea.The water also contains salts of magnesium, calcium, and potassium, amongst many other elements, some in minute concentrations.Salinity varies widely, being lower near the surface and the mouths of large rivers and higher in the depths of the ocean; however, the relative proportions of dissolved salts varies little across the oceans.The Mediterranean Sea is slightly higher at 38 ‰, The constituents of table salt, sodium and chloride, make up about 85 percent of the solids in solution, there are also other metal ions such as magnesium and calcium and negative ions including sulphate, carbonate, and bromide.Despite variations in the levels of salinity in different seas, the relative composition of the dissolved salts is stable throughout the world's oceans.The more recent study of the sea in particular is oceanography.This began as the study of the shape of the ocean's currents Marine biology (biological oceanography) studies the plants, animals, and other organisms inhabiting marine ecosystems.The remainder (about 0.65% of the whole) form underground reservoirs or various stages of the water cycle, containing the freshwater encountered and used by most terrestrial life: vapor in the air, the clouds it slowly forms, the rain falling from them, and the lakes and rivers spontaneously formed as its waters flow again and again to the sea.The scientific study of water and Earth's water cycle is hydrology; hydrodynamics studies the physics of water in motion.Sea temperature depends on the amount of solar radiation falling on its surface.In the tropics, with the sun nearly overhead, the temperature of the surface layers can rise to over 30 °C (86 °F) while near the poles the temperature in equilibrium with the sea ice is about −2 °C (28 °F).