The Waves You Never Caught

February 17, 2018

Long ago, before the continents sat where we know them to be today, earth’s climate was drastically different. Many factors were said to contribute to this, but two substantial reasons were ocean currents and the sun. That still has not changed because they affect the climate and weather we have today. Although now, the land positioning is different from what it was 65 million years ago in the Cretaceous period. This positioning affects one of the most significant contributors to the earth's climate, ocean currents.

Ocean currents follow patterns and pathways around the world that bring “warm” water to the six out of seven continents not covered in ice. These currents are created by a mixing process of cold and warm water in the ocean. This mixing process is determined by the temperature of the water where cold water sinks and the warm water replaces it but eventually finds the same fate as the cold water when it loses its heat. The energy that warms the water is given by the sun. Most of the ocean’s currents are around or originate from the equator line because this location receives direct sunlight. The mixing of the water is also influenced by air currents, more commonly described as wind. The more wind present, the faster and more intense the water mixing process will be.

This mixing process continues in a cycle to give us ocean currents. Unfortunately, not all water gets to experience this exciting process that keeps our land habitable. The mixing process only occurs in surface water depths and the deep ocean under the surface water is stagnant for the most part. This is because the energy, or heat, trapped in the water can only penetrate to certain depths of sea water. These ocean currents made from the mixing of their water are what kept Antarctica in a subtropical climate in the Cretaceous period.

Before the seven continents were in their familiar home as we know them to be, they used to reside in different parts of the world. For example, North and South America were not attached yet, India was much lower than the continent of Asia, and Australia was connected to Antarctica. The location of these huge land masses let the ocean flow to all and warm each of them. This created a time where there was an absence of ice. When the continents moved to the locations we know them to be, it created a block of the ocean currents to Antarctica. Without these warm currents coming to Antarctica it began to go through a cycle of freezing and accumulating ice and became the great land mass covered in ice, uninhabitable for human life and survival.

Together, the sun and ocean currents make a phenomenal team. They are what keep the world from freezing solid and becoming one huge Antarctica. Without this special combination the earth processes we could go out on a summer night to stargaze or go on family vacations to the beach and wear tiny bathing suits to absorb a better tan. We must learn to be thankful for the climate period we live in because Earth has not always been a perfect place to claim as our home and benefit from its beauty. Without this duo, humans may have never been able to feel the soft soil beneath their feet.  



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