Oceanography 001                                                                                West Valley College

R. Lopez                                                                                              

Study Questions: Atmosphere and Ocean Circulation


1)      Know the relative abundances of the atmospheric gases that freely exchange between oceans and atmosphere. (I discussed these on the first day of class)

2)      What is the angle of Earth’s axis to the ecliptic (orbital plane)?  See fig. 7.2 page 134

3)      How are Earth’s seasons caused?

4)      What is the yearly cycle of seasons (e.g. two equinox and two solstice)?

5)      Explain uneven solar heating on Earth.

6)      Why are the tropics warmer than the poles?

7)      Since solar radiation is strongest at the tropics and lowest at the poles, why don’t the poles get progressively colder and the tropics progressively hotter?

8)      Warm air is less dense than cold air. True or False?

9)      Is humid air less or more dense than dry air?

10)   What occurs when near surface air (under pressure) is lifted to higher altitudes?

11)   Lifting air cools and expands. True or False?

12)   What does descending air do?

13)   Recall that warm ascending air holds more water vapor than cold descending air. What results from warm air rising to higher altitudes (hint: will lead to rain)?

14)   What is the Coriolis Effect (p. 136)?

15)   In the Northern Hemisphere, the deflection of the initial course is to the left because of the Coriolis Effect. True or False?

16)   How many Atmospheric cells occur in each Hemisphere?  What are the names of the three atmospheric cells?  Be able to name these and give their latitude range.

17)   Know where the Trade Winds, Westerlies, and Polar Easterlies occur.  Know their direction of travel in each of the atmospheric cells.

18)   Know where the Doldurms, Horse Latitudes, and Polar Fronts occur.  Definitely know where the high and low pressures occur.

19)   Name at least three of the Primary and Secondary forces that drive ocean circulation.

20)   What is an ocean current?

21)   What are the two main types of current systems?

22)   Thermohaline currents travel along the ocean surface. True or False?

23)   What are the three key points to remember when describing surface current generation?

24)   What is gyre?

25)   What is the Ekman Spiral? How does it explain ocean current surface movement at 90° to wind direction?

26)   What is the Ekman Transport?

27)   What is a geostrophic gyre?

28)   Why do geostrophic gyres circulate westward without turning to the right in the northern hemisphere?

29)   Where is the Sargasso Sea, and how is it characterized?

30)   What are the six great geostrophic gyres of the world?

31)   Why is the West Wind Drift not really a gyre?

32)   What is a western boundary current?

33)   What are the five major western boundary currents?

34)   Know how upwelling and downwelling conditions occur. (page 160)

35)   How is Thermohaline Circulation generated? (page 165)

36)   Why is the ocean stratified (layered)?

37)   What are the five common water density masses according to temperature in temperate and tropical water? (p. 165-166)