An ocean (from Ancient Greek Ὠκεανός, transc. Okeanós[1]) is a body of water that composes much of a planet's hydrosphere.[2] On Earth, an ocean is one of the major conventional divisions of the World Ocean. These are, in descending order by area, the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Southern (Antarctic), and Arctic Oceans.[3][4] The word "ocean" is often used interchangeably with "sea" in American English. Strictly speaking, a sea is a body of water (generally a division of the world ocean) partly or fully enclosed by land,[5] though "the sea" refers also to the oceans.

Saline water covers approximately 361,000,000 km2 (139,000,000 sq mi) and is customarily divided into several principal oceans and smaller seas, with the ocean covering approximately 71% of Earth's surface and 90% of the Earth's biosphere.[6] The ocean contains 97% of Earth's water, and oceanographers have stated that less than 5% of the World Ocean has been explored.[6] The total volume is approximately 1.35 billion cubic kilometers (320 million cu mi) with an average depth of nearly 3,700 meters (12,100 ft).[7][8][9]

As the world ocean is the principal component of Earth's hydrosphere, it is integral to life, forms part of the carbon cycle, and influences climate and weather patterns. The World Ocean is the habitat of 230,000 known species, but because much of it is unexplored, the number of species that exist in the ocean is much larger, possibly over two million.[10] The origin of Earth's oceans is unknown; oceans are thought to have formed in the Hadean eon and may have been the impetus for the emergence of life.

Extraterrestrial oceans may be composed of water or other elements and compounds. The only confirmed large stable bodies of extraterrestrial surface liquids are the lakes of Titan, although there is evidence for the existence of oceans elsewhere in the Solar System. Early in their geologic histories, Mars and Venus are theorized to have had large water oceans. The Mars ocean hypothesis suggests that nearly a third of the surface of Mars was once covered by water, and a runaway greenhouse effect may have boiled away the global ocean of Venus. Compounds such as salts and ammonia dissolved in water lower its freezing point so that water might exist in large quantities in extraterrestrial environments as brine or convecting ice. Unconfirmed oceans are speculated beneath the surface of many dwarf planets and natural satellites; notably, the ocean of Europa is estimated to have over twice the water volume of Earth. The Solar System's giant planets are also thought to have liquid atmospheric layers of yet to be confirmed compositions. Oceans may also exist on exoplanets and exomoons, including surface oceans of liquid water within a circumstellar habitable zone. Ocean planets are a hypothetical type of planet with a surface completely covered with liquid.[11][12]

Clouds over the Atlantic Ocean
Clouds over the Atlantic Ocean


The word « ocean » comes from the figure in classical antiquity, Oceanus (/oʊˈsiːənəs/; Greek: Ὠκεανός Ōkeanós,[13] pronounced [ɔːkeanós]), the elder of the Titans in classical Greek mythology, believed by the ancient Greeks and Romans to be the divine personification of the sea, an enormous river encircling the world.

The concept of Ōkeanós has an Indo-European connection. Greek Ōkeanós has been compared to the Vedic epithet ā-śáyāna-, predicated of the dragon Vṛtra-, who captured the cows/rivers. Related to this notion, the Okeanos is represented with a dragon-tail on some early Greek vases.[14]

Earth's global ocean

World ocean map
Various ways to divide the World Ocean

Oceanic divisions

Layers of Ocean (1)
1. Epipelagic zone: surface – 200 meters deep 2. Mesopelagic zone: 200 m – 1000 m 3. Bathypelagic zone: 1000 m – 4000 m 4. Abyssopelagic zone: 4000 m – 6000 m 5. Hadal zone (the trenches): 6000 m to the bottom of the ocean

Though generally described as several separate oceans, the global, interconnected body of salt water is sometimes referred to as the World Ocean or global ocean.[15][16] The concept of a continuous body of water with relatively free interchange among its parts is of fundamental importance to oceanography.[17]

The major oceanic divisions – listed below in descending order of area and volume – are defined in part by the continents, various archipelagos, and other criteria.[9][12][18]

# Ocean Location Area
Avg. depth
1 Pacific Ocean Separates Asia and Oceania from the Americas[19][NB] 168,723,000
3,970 135,663
2 Atlantic Ocean Separates the Americas from Europe and Africa[20] 85,133,000
3,646 111,866
3 Indian Ocean Washes upon southern Asia and separates Africa and Australia[21] 70,560,000
3,741 66,526
4 Southern Ocean Sometimes considered an extension of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans,[22][23] which encircles Antarctica 21,960,000
3,270 17,968
5 Arctic Ocean Sometimes considered a sea or estuary of the Atlantic,[24][25] which covers much of the Arctic and washes upon northern North America and Eurasia[26] 15,558,000
1,205 45,389
Total – World Ocean 361,900,000
3,688 377,412[27]
Seas and Bays
Sea Location Area

(sq. km)

Arabian Sea Between the Arabian peninsula and the Indian subcontinent 3,862,000 1
Bay of Bengal Between the Indian subcontinent and the malaysia peninsula 2,173,000 2

Oceans are fringed by smaller, adjoining bodies of water such as seas, gulfs, bays, bights, and straits.

Global system

World Distribution of Mid-Oceanic Ridges
World Distribution of Mid-Oceanic Ridges; USGS
Tectonic plate boundaries
Three main types of plate boundaries.

The mid-ocean ridges of the world are connected and form a single global mid-oceanic ridge system that is part of every ocean and the longest mountain range in the world. The continuous mountain range is 65,000 km (40,000 mi) long (several times longer than the Andes, the longest continental mountain range).[28]

Physical properties

The total mass of the hydrosphere is about 1.4 quintillion metric tons (1.4×1018 long tons or 1.5×1018 short tons), which is about 0.023% of Earth's total mass. Less than 3% is freshwater; the rest is saltwater, almost all of which is in the ocean. The area of the World Ocean is about 361.9 million square kilometers (139.7 million square miles),[9] which covers about 70.9% of Earth's surface, and its volume is approximately 1.335 billion cubic kilometers (320.3 million cubic miles).[9] This can be thought of as a cube of water with an edge length of 1,101 kilometers (684 mi). Its average depth is about 3,688 meters (12,100 ft),[9] and its maximum depth is 10,994 meters (6.831 mi) at the Mariana Trench.[29] Nearly half of the world's marine waters are over 3,000 meters (9,800 ft) deep.[16] The vast expanses of deep ocean (anything below 200 meters or 660 feet) cover about 66% of Earth's surface.[30] This does not include seas not connected to the World Ocean, such as the Caspian Sea.

The bluish ocean color is a composite of several contributing agents. Prominent contributors include dissolved organic matter and chlorophyll.[31] Mariners and other seafarers have reported that the ocean often emits a visible glow which extends for miles at night. In 2005, scientists announced that for the first time, they had obtained photographic evidence of this glow.[32] It is most likely caused by bioluminescence.[33][34][35]

Oceanic zones

Oceanic divisions
The major oceanic zones, based on depth and biophysical conditions

Oceanographers divide the ocean into different vertical zones defined by physical and biological conditions. The pelagic zone includes all open ocean regions, and can be divided into further regions categorized by depth and light abundance. The photic zone includes the oceans from the surface to a depth of 200 m; it is the region where photosynthesis can occur and is, therefore, the most biodiverse. Because plants require photosynthesis, life found deeper than the photic zone must either rely on material sinking from above (see marine snow) or find another energy source. Hydrothermal vents are the primary source of energy in what is known as the aphotic zone (depths exceeding 200 m). The pelagic part of the photic zone is known as the epipelagic.

The pelagic part of the aphotic zone can be further divided into vertical regions according to temperature. The mesopelagic is the uppermost region. Its lowermost boundary is at a thermocline of 12 °C (54 °F), which, in the tropics generally lies at 700–1,000 meters (2,300–3,300 ft). Next is the bathypelagic lying between 10 and 4 °C (50 and 39 °F), typically between 700–1,000 meters (2,300–3,300 ft) and 2,000–4,000 meters (6,600–13,100 ft), lying along the top of the abyssal plain is the abyssopelagic, whose lower boundary lies at about 6,000 meters (20,000 ft). The last zone includes the deep oceanic trench, and is known as the hadalpelagic. This lies between 6,000–11,000 meters (20,000–36,000 ft) and is the deepest oceanic zone.

The benthic zones are aphotic and correspond to the three deepest zones of the deep-sea. The bathyal zone covers the continental slope down to about 4,000 meters (13,000 ft). The abyssal zone covers the abyssal plains between 4,000 and 6,000 m. Lastly, the hadal zone corresponds to the hadalpelagic zone, which is found in oceanic trenches.

The pelagic zone can be further subdivided into two subregions: the neritic zone and the oceanic zone. The neritic zone encompasses the water mass directly above the continental shelves whereas the oceanic zone includes all the completely open water.

In contrast, the littoral zone covers the region between low and high tide and represents the transitional area between marine and terrestrial conditions. It is also known as the intertidal zone because it is the area where tide level affects the conditions of the region.

If a zone undergoes dramatic changes in temperature with depth, it contains a thermocline. The tropical thermocline is typically deeper than the thermocline at higher latitudes. Polar waters, which receive relatively little solar energy, are not stratified by temperature and generally lack a thermocline because surface water at polar latitudes are nearly as cold as water at greater depths. Below the thermocline, water is very cold, ranging from −1 °C to 3 °C. Because this deep and cold layer contains the bulk of ocean water, the average temperature of the world ocean is 3.9 °C. If a zone undergoes dramatic changes in salinity with depth, it contains a halocline. If a zone undergoes a strong, vertical chemistry gradient with depth, it contains a chemocline.

The halocline often coincides with the thermocline, and the combination produces a pronounced pycnocline.


Ocean gravity map
Map of large underwater features (1995, NOAA)

The deepest point in the ocean is the Mariana Trench, located in the Pacific Ocean near the Northern Mariana Islands. Its maximum depth has been estimated to be 10,971 meters (35,994 ft) (plus or minus 11 meters; see the Mariana Trench article for discussion of the various estimates of the maximum depth.) The British naval vessel Challenger II surveyed the trench in 1951 and named the deepest part of the trench the "Challenger Deep". In 1960, the Trieste successfully reached the bottom of the trench, manned by a crew of two men.

Oceanic maritime currents

Ocean currents 1943
Oceanic surface currents (U.S. Army, 1943).
M2 tidal constituent
Amphidromic points showing the direction of tides per incrementation periods along with resonating directions of wavelength movements.

Oceanic maritime currents have different origins. Tidal currents are in phase with the tide, hence are quasiperiodic; they may form various knots in certain places, most notably around headlands. Non-periodic currents have for origin the waves, wind and different densities.

The wind and waves create surface currents (designated as “drift currents”). These currents can decompose in one quasi-permanent current (which varies within the hourly scale) and one movement of Stokes drift under the effect of rapid waves movement (at the echelon of a couple of seconds).).[36] The quasi-permanent current is accelerated by the breaking of waves, and in a lesser governing effect, by the friction of the wind on the surface.[37]

This acceleration of the current takes place in the direction of waves and dominant wind. Accordingly, when the sea depth increases, the rotation of the earth changes the direction of currents in proportion with the increase of depth, while friction lowers their speed. At a certain sea depth, the current changes direction and is seen inverted in the opposite direction with current speed becoming null: known as the Ekman spiral. The influence of these currents is mainly experienced at the mixed layer of the ocean surface, often from 400 to 800 meters of maximum depth. These currents can considerably alter, change and are dependent on the various yearly seasons. If the mixed layer is less thick (10 to 20 meters), the quasi-permanent current at the surface adopts an extreme oblique direction in relation to the direction of the wind, becoming virtually homogeneous, until the Thermocline.[38]

In the deep however, maritime currents are caused by the temperature gradients and the salinity between water density masses.

In littoral zones, breaking waves are so intense and the depth measurement so low, that maritime currents reach often 1 to 2 knots.


Thermohaline Circulation 2
A map of the global thermohaline circulation; blue represent deep-water currents, whereas red represent surface currents

Ocean currents greatly affect Earth's climate by transferring heat from the tropics to the polar regions. Transferring warm or cold air and precipitation to coastal regions, winds may carry them inland. Surface heat and freshwater fluxes create global density gradients that drive the thermohaline circulation part of large-scale ocean circulation. It plays an important role in supplying heat to the polar regions, and thus in sea ice regulation. Changes in the thermohaline circulation are thought to have significant impacts on Earth's energy budget. In so far as the thermohaline circulation governs the rate at which deep waters reach the surface, it may also significantly influence atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.

For a discussion of the possibilities of changes to the thermohaline circulation under global warming, see shutdown of thermohaline circulation.

The Antarctic Circumpolar Current encircles that continent, influencing the area's climate and connecting currents in several oceans.

One of the most dramatic forms of weather occurs over the oceans: tropical cyclones (also called "typhoons" and "hurricanes" depending upon where the system forms).


The ocean has a significant effect on the biosphere. Oceanic evaporation, as a phase of the water cycle, is the source of most rainfall, and ocean temperatures determine climate and wind patterns that affect life on land. Life within the ocean evolved 3 billion years prior to life on land. Both the depth and the distance from shore strongly influence the biodiversity of the plants and animals present in each region.[39]

As it is thought that life evolved in the ocean, the diversity of life is immense, including:

In addition, many land animals have adapted to living a major part of their life on the oceans. For instance, seabirds are a diverse group of birds that have adapted to a life mainly on the oceans. They feed on marine animals and spend most of their lifetime on water, many only going on land for breeding. Other birds that have adapted to oceans as their living space are penguins, seagulls and pelicans. Seven species of turtles, the sea turtles, also spend most of their time in the oceans.


Characteristics of oceanic gases [40][41][42]
Gas Concentration of seawater, by mass (in parts per million), for the whole ocean % Dissolved gas, by volume, in seawater at the ocean surface
Carbon dioxide (CO2) 64 to 107 15%
Nitrogen (N2) 10 to 18 48%
Oxygen (O2) 0 to 13 36%
Solubility of oceanic gases (in mL/L) with temperature at salinity of 33‰ and atmospheric pressure[43]
Temperature O2 CO2 N2
0 °C 8.14 8,700 14.47
10 °C 6.42 8,030 11.59
20 °C 5.26 7,350 9.65
30 °C 4.41 6,600 8.26


Generalized characteristics of ocean surface by latitude [44][45][46][47][48][49][50]
Characteristic Oceanic waters in polar regions Oceanic waters in temperate regions Oceanic waters in tropical regions
Precipitation vs. evaporation P > E P > E E > P
Sea surface temperature in winter −2 °C 5 to 20 °C 20 to 25 °C
Average salinity 28‰ to 32‰ 35‰ 35‰ to 37‰
Annual variation of air temperature ≤ 40ªC 10 °C < 5 °C
Annual variation of water temperature < 5ªC 10 °C < 5 °C

Mixing time

Mean oceanic residence time for various constituents [51][52]
Constituent Residence time (in years)
Iron (Fe) 200
Aluminum (Al) 600
Manganese (Mn) 1,300
Water (H2O) 4,100
Silicon (Si) 20,000
Carbonate (CO32−) 110,000
Calcium (Ca2+) 1,000,000
Sulfate (SO42−) 11,000,000
Potassium (K+) 12,000,000
Magnesium (Mg2+) 13,000,000
Sodium (Na+) 68,000,000
Chloride (Cl) 100,000,000


A zone of rapid salinity increase with depth is called a halocline. The temperature of maximum density of seawater decreases as its salt content increases. Freezing temperature of water decreases with salinity, and boiling temperature of water increases with salinity. Typical seawater freezes at around −2 °C at atmospheric pressure.[53] If precipitation exceeds evaporation, as is the case in polar and temperate regions, salinity will be lower. If evaporation exceeds precipitation, as is the case in tropical regions, salinity will be higher. Thus, oceanic waters in polar regions have lower salinity content than oceanic waters in temperate and tropical regions.[54]

Salinity can be calculated using the chlorinity, which is a measure of the total mass of halogen ions (includes fluorine, chlorine, bromine, and iodine) in seawater. By international agreement, the following formula is used to determine salinity:

Salinity (in ‰) = 1.80655 × Chlorinity (in ‰)

The average chlorinity is about 19.2‰, and, thus, the average salinity is around 34.7‰ [54]

Absorption of light

Absorption of light in different wavelengths by ocean [54]
Color: Wavelength (nm) Depth at which 99 percent of the wavelength is absorbed (in meters) Percent absorbed in 1 meter of water
Ultraviolet (UV): 310 31 14.0
Violet (V): 400 107 4.2
Blue (B): 475 254 1.8
Green (G): 525 113 4.0
Yellow (Y): 575 51 8.7
Orange (O): 600 25 16.7
Red (R): 725 4 71.0
Infrared (IR): 800 3 82.0

Economic value

Many of the world's goods are moved by ship between the world's seaports.[55] Oceans are also the major supply source for the fishing industry. Some of the major harvests are shrimp, fish, crabs, and lobster.[6]

Waves and swell

The motions of the ocean surface, known as undulations or waves, are the partial and alternate rising and falling of the ocean surface. The series of mechanical waves that propagate along the interface between water and air is called swell.

Extraterrestrial oceans

Artist's conception of subsurface ocean of Enceladus confirmed April 3, 2014.[56][57]
Two models for the composition of Europa predict a large subsurface ocean of liquid water. Similar models have been proposed for other celestial bodies in the Solar System.

Although Earth is the only known planet with large stable bodies of liquid water on its surface and the only one in the Solar System, other celestial bodies are thought to have large oceans.[58]


The gas giants, Jupiter and Saturn, are thought to lack surfaces and instead have a stratum of liquid hydrogen; however their planetary geology is not well understood. The possibility of the ice giants Uranus and Neptune having hot, highly compressed, supercritical water under their thick atmospheres has been hypothesised. Although their composition is still not fully understood, a 2006 study by Wiktorowicz and Ingersall ruled out the possibility of such a water "ocean" existing on Neptune,[59] though some studies have suggested that exotic oceans of liquid diamond are possible.[60]

The Mars ocean hypothesis suggests that nearly a third of the surface of Mars was once covered by water, though the water on Mars is no longer oceanic (much of it residing in the ice caps). The possibility continues to be studied along with reasons for their apparent disappearance. Astronomers think that Venus had liquid water and perhaps oceans in its very early history. If they existed, all later vanished via resurfacing.

Natural satellites

A global layer of liquid water thick enough to decouple the crust from the mantle is thought to be present on the natural satellites Titan, Europa, Enceladus and, with less certainty, Callisto, Ganymede[61][62] and Triton.[63][64] A magma ocean is thought to be present on Io. Geysers have been found on Saturn's moon Enceladus, possibly originating from an ocean about 10 kilometers (6.2 mi) beneath the surface ice shell.[56] Other icy moons may also have internal oceans, or may once have had internal oceans that have now frozen.[65]

Large bodies of liquid hydrocarbons are thought to be present on the surface of Titan, although they are not large enough to be considered oceans and are sometimes referred to as lakes or seas. The Cassini–Huygens space mission initially discovered only what appeared to be dry lakebeds and empty river channels, suggesting that Titan had lost what surface liquids it might have had. Later flybys of Titan provided radar and infrared images that showed a series of hydrocarbon lakes in the colder polar regions. Titan is thought to have a subsurface liquid-water ocean under the ice in addition to the hydrocarbon mix that forms atop its outer crust.

Dwarf planets and trans-Neptunian objects

Ceres Cutaway-en
Diagram showing a possible internal structure of Ceres

Ceres appears to be differentiated into a rocky core and icy mantle and may harbour a liquid-water ocean under its surface.[66][67]

Not enough is known of the larger trans-Neptunian objects to determine whether they are differentiated bodies capable of supporting oceans, although models of radioactive decay suggest that Pluto,[68] Eris, Sedna, and Orcus have oceans beneath solid icy crusts approximately 100 to 180 km thick.[65]


UpsilonAndromedae D moons
Rendering of a hypothetical large extrasolar moon with surface liquid-water oceans

Some planets and natural satellites outside the Solar System are likely to have oceans, including possible water ocean planets similar to Earth in the habitable zone or "liquid-water belt". The detection of oceans, even through the spectroscopy method, however is likely extremely difficult and inconclusive.

Theoretical models have been used to predict with high probability that GJ 1214 b, detected by transit, is composed of exotic form of ice VII, making up 75% of its mass,[69] making it an ocean planet.

Other possible candidates are merely speculated based on their mass and position in the habitable zone include planet though little is actually known of their composition. Some scientists speculate Kepler-22b may be an "ocean-like" planet.[70] Models have been proposed for Gliese 581 d that could include surface oceans. Gliese 436 b is speculated to have an ocean of "hot ice".[71] Exomoons orbiting planets, particularly gas giants within their parent star's habitable zone may theoretically have surface oceans.

Terrestrial planets will acquire water during their accretion, some of which will be buried in the magma ocean but most of it will go into a steam atmosphere, and when the atmosphere cools it will collapse on to the surface forming an ocean. There will also be outgassing of water from the mantle as the magma solidifies—this will happen even for planets with a low percentage of their mass composed of water, so "super-Earth exoplanets may be expected to commonly produce water oceans within tens to hundreds of millions of years of their last major accretionary impact."[72]

Non-water surface liquids

Oceans, seas, lakes and other bodies of liquids can be composed of liquids other than water, for example the hydrocarbon lakes on Titan. The possibility of seas of nitrogen on Triton was also considered but ruled out.[73] There is evidence that the icy surfaces of the moons Ganymede, Callisto, Europa, Titan and Enceladus are shells floating on oceans of very dense liquid water or water–ammonia.[74][75][76][77][78] Earth is often called the ocean planet because it is 70% covered in water.[79][80] Extrasolar terrestrial planets that are extremely close to their parent star will be tidally locked and so one half of the planet will be a magma ocean.[81] It is also possible that terrestrial planets had magma oceans at some point during their formation as a result of giant impacts.[82] Hot Neptunes close to their star could lose their atmospheres via hydrodynamic escape, leaving behind their cores with various liquids on the surface.[83] Where there are suitable temperatures and pressures, volatile chemicals that might exist as liquids in abundant quantities on planets include ammonia, argon, carbon disulfide, ethane, hydrazine, hydrogen, hydrogen cyanide, hydrogen sulfide, methane, neon, nitrogen, nitric oxide, phosphine, silane, sulfuric acid, and water.[84]

Supercritical fluids, although not liquids, do share various properties with liquids. Underneath the thick atmospheres of the planets Uranus and Neptune, it is expected that these planets are composed of oceans of hot high-density fluid mixtures of water, ammonia and other volatiles.[85] The gaseous outer layers of Jupiter and Saturn transition smoothly into oceans of supercritical hydrogen.[86][87] The atmosphere of Venus is 96.5% carbon dioxide, which is a supercritical fluid at its surface.

See also

On other bodies:


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Further reading

  • Matthias Tomczak and J. Stuart Godfrey. 2003. Regional Oceanography: an Introduction. (see the site)
  • Pope, F. 2009. From eternal darkness springs cast of angels and jellied jewels. in The Times. November 23. 2009 pp. 16–17.

External links

2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami

The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake occurred at 00:58:53 UTC on 26 December, with an epicentre off the west coast of northern Sumatra. It was an undersea megathrust earthquake that registered a magnitude of 9.1–9.3 Mw, reaching a Mercalli intensity up to IX in certain areas. The earthquake was caused by a rupture along the fault between the Burma Plate and the Indian Plate.

A series of large tsunamis up to 30 metres (100 ft) high were created by the underwater seismic activity that became known collectively as the Boxing Day tsunamis. Communities along the surrounding coasts of the Indian Ocean were seriously affected, and the tsunamis killed an estimated 227,898 people in 14 countries. The Indonesian city of Banda Aceh reported the largest number of victims. The earthquake was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. The direct results caused major disruptions to living conditions and commerce particularly in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand.

The earthquake was the third largest ever recorded and had the longest duration of faulting ever observed; between eight and ten minutes. It caused the planet to vibrate as much as 1 centimetre (0.4 inches), and it remotely triggered earthquakes as far away as Alaska. Its epicentre was between Simeulue and mainland Sumatra. The plight of the affected people and countries prompted a worldwide humanitarian response, with donations totaling more than US$14 billion. The event is known by the scientific community as the Sumatra–Andaman earthquake.

Arctic Ocean

The Arctic Ocean is the smallest and shallowest of the world's five major oceans. The International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) recognizes it as an ocean, although some oceanographers call it the Arctic Mediterranean Sea or simply the Arctic Sea, classifying it a mediterranean sea or an estuary of the Atlantic Ocean. It is also seen as the northernmost part of the all-encompassing World Ocean.

Located mostly in the Arctic north polar region in the middle of the Northern Hemisphere, the Arctic Ocean is almost completely surrounded by Eurasia and North America. It is partly covered by sea ice throughout the year and almost completely in winter. The Arctic Ocean's surface temperature and salinity vary seasonally as the ice cover melts and freezes; its salinity is the lowest on average of the five major oceans, due to low evaporation, heavy fresh water inflow from rivers and streams, and limited connection and outflow to surrounding oceanic waters with higher salinities. The summer shrinking of the ice has been quoted at 50%. The US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) uses satellite data to provide a daily record of Arctic sea ice cover and the rate of melting compared to an average period and specific past years.

Atlantic Ocean

The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest of the world's oceans, with an area of about 106,460,000 square kilometers (41,100,000 square miles). It covers approximately 20 percent of the Earth's surface and about 29 percent of its water surface area. It separates the "Old World" from the "New World".

The Atlantic Ocean occupies an elongated, S-shaped basin extending longitudinally between Europe and Africa to the east, and the Americas to the west. As one component of the interconnected global ocean, it is connected in the north to the Arctic Ocean, to the Pacific Ocean in the southwest, the Indian Ocean in the southeast, and the Southern Ocean in the south (other definitions describe the Atlantic as extending southward to Antarctica). The Equatorial Counter Current subdivides it into the North Atlantic Ocean and the South Atlantic Ocean at about 8°N.Scientific explorations of the Atlantic include the Challenger expedition, the German Meteor expedition, Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the United States Navy Hydrographic Office.

Blue whale

The blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) is a marine mammal belonging to the baleen whale parvorder, Mysticeti. At up to 29.9 metres (98 ft) in length and with a maximum recorded weight of 173 tonnes (190 short tons), it is the largest animal known to have ever existed.Long and slender, the blue whale's body can be various shades of bluish-grey dorsally and somewhat lighter underneath. There are at least three distinct subspecies: B. m. musculus of the North Atlantic and North Pacific, B. m. intermedia of the Southern Ocean and B. m. brevicauda (also known as the pygmy blue whale) found in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean. B. m. indica, found in the Indian Ocean, may be another subspecies. As with other baleen whales, its diet consists almost exclusively of small crustaceans known as krill.Blue whales were abundant in nearly all the oceans on Earth until the beginning of the twentieth century. For over a century, they were hunted almost to extinction by whalers until protected by the international community in 1966. A 2002 report estimated there were 5,000 to 12,000 blue whales worldwide, in at least five groups. The IUCN estimates that there are probably between 10,000 and 25,000 blue whales worldwide today. Before whaling, the largest population was in the Antarctic, numbering approximately 239,000 (range 202,000 to 311,000). There remain only much smaller (around 2,000) concentrations in each of the eastern North Pacific, Antarctic, and Indian Ocean groups. There are two more groups in the North Atlantic, and at least two in the Southern Hemisphere. The Eastern North Pacific blue whale population had rebounded by 2014 to nearly its pre-hunting population.

British Indian Ocean Territory

The British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom situated in the Indian Ocean halfway between Tanzania and Indonesia, and directly south of the Maldives. The territory comprises the seven atolls of the Chagos Archipelago with over 1,000 individual islands – many very small – amounting to a total land area of 60 square kilometres (23 sq mi). The largest and most southerly island is Diego Garcia, 27 km2 (10 sq mi), the site of a joint military facility of the United Kingdom and the United States.

The only inhabitants of the territory are US and British military personnel and associated contractors, who collectively number around 2,500 (2012 figures). The removal of Chagossians from the Chagos Archipelago occurred between 1968 and 1973. The Chagossians, then numbering about 2,000 people, were expelled by the British government to Mauritius and the Seychelles to allow the United States to build a joint UK/US military base there. Today, the exiled Chagossians are still trying to return, arguing that the forced expulsion and dispossession was illegal. The islands are off-limits to Chagossians, casual tourists, and the media.

Since the 1980s the government of Mauritius has sought to regain control over the Chagos Archipelago, which was separated from the British Colony of Mauritius by the UK in 1965 to form the British Indian Ocean Territory. On 23 June 2017, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) voted in favour of referring the territorial dispute between Mauritius and the UK to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in order to clarify the legal status of the Chagos Islands archipelago in the Indian Ocean. The motion was approved by a majority vote with 94 voting for and 15 against.. Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf described the UK's administration of the Chagos Islands as "an unlawful act of continuing character". In February 2019, the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled that Britain should transfer the islands to Mauritius as they were not legally separated from the latter in 1965. The ruling is not legally binding.

Frank Ocean

Frank Ocean (born October 28, 1987) is an American singer, songwriter, rapper, record producer and photographer.Ocean began his musical career as a ghostwriter, prior to joining hip hop collective Odd Future in 2010, and the following year, released Nostalgia, Ultra, his debut mixtape. The mixtape was a critical success, and generated the single "Novacane", which peaked at number 82 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was later certified platinum. Ocean subsequently secured a recording contract with Def Jam Recordings in 2012.

Ocean released his debut studio album, Channel Orange, in July 2012; it debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 and was soon certified platinum. The album received universal acclaim from critics, and won Ocean his first Grammy Award, for Best Urban Contemporary Album. The album contained the singles "Thinkin Bout You", "Pyramids", and "Sweet Life", with the former peaking inside the top 40 in the US and gaining him a nomination for Record of the Year at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards.

His second album, Blonde, was released in 2016, and was subject to controversy after Ocean endured protracted contract disputes with Def Jam, which led to the album suffering repeated delays. Released independently, Blonde debuted at number one in several countries, and was also highly acclaimed by critics. The album contained the single "Nikes" and was eventually certified platinum. In 2017, Ocean was featured on the Calvin Harris single "Slide", opposite Migos; it became Ocean's highest charting song in the US, peaking at number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100.Ocean is known for his idiosyncratic musical style, introspective and elliptical songwriting, unconventional production techniques, and wide vocal range. Music critics have credited him with revitalizing R&B, with his distinctive sound and style influencing numerous artists of various music genres.

Indian Ocean

The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering 70,560,000 km2 (27,240,000 sq mi) (approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface). It is bounded by Asia on the north, on the west by Africa, on the east by Australia, and on the south by the Southern Ocean or, depending on definition, by Antarctica.


An island or isle is any piece of sub-continental land that is surrounded by water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atolls can be called islets, skerries, cays or keys. An island in a river or a lake island may be called an eyot or ait, and a small island off the coast may be called a holm. A grouping of geographically or geologically related islands is called an archipelago, such as the Philippines.

An island may be described as such, despite the presence of an artificial land bridge; examples are Singapore and its causeway, and the various Dutch delta islands, such as IJsselmonde. Some places may even retain "island" in their names for historical reasons after being connected to a larger landmass by a land bridge or landfill, such as Coney Island and Coronado Island, though these are, strictly speaking, tied islands. Conversely, when a piece of land is separated from the mainland by a man-made canal, for example the Peloponnese by the Corinth Canal or Marble Hill in northern Manhattan during the time between the building of the United States Ship Canal and the filling-in of the Harlem River which surrounded the area, it is generally not considered an island.

There are two main types of islands in the sea: continental and oceanic. There are also artificial islands.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (also referred to as MH370, Flight MH370 or MAS370) was a scheduled international passenger flight operated by Malaysia Airlines that disappeared on 8 March 2014 while flying from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to its destination, Beijing Capital International Airport. The crew of the Boeing 777-200ER aircraft last communicated with air traffic control (ATC) around 38 minutes after takeoff when the flight was over the South China Sea. The aircraft was lost from ATC radar screens minutes later, but was tracked by military radar for another hour, deviating westwards from its planned flight path, crossing the Malay Peninsula and Andaman Sea. It left radar range 200 nautical miles (370 km) northwest of Penang Island in northwestern Malaysia. With all 227 passengers and 12 crew aboard presumed dead, the disappearance of Flight 370 was the deadliest incident involving a Boeing 777 and the deadliest in Malaysia Airlines' history, until it was surpassed in both regards by Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 four months later. The combined loss caused significant financial problems for Malaysia Airlines, which was renationalised by the Malaysian government in December 2014.

The search for the missing airplane, which became the most costly in aviation history, focused initially on the South China and Andaman seas, before analysis of the aircraft's automated communications with an Inmarsat satellite identified a possible crash site somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean. The lack of official information in the days immediately after the disappearance prompted fierce criticism from the Chinese public, particularly from relatives of the passengers; most on board Flight 370 were of Chinese origin. Several pieces of marine debris confirmed to be from the aircraft washed ashore in the western Indian Ocean during 2015 and 2016. After a three-year search across 120,000 square kilometres (46,000 sq mi) of ocean failed to locate the aircraft, the Joint Agency Coordination Centre heading the operation suspended their activities in January 2017. A second search launched in January 2018 by the private contractor Ocean Infinity also ended without success after six months.

The disappearance of Flight 370 has been dubbed one of the greatest aviation mysteries of all time. Relying mostly on analysis of data from the Inmarsat satellite with which the aircraft last communicated, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau proposed initially that a hypoxia event was the most likely cause given the available evidence, although there has not been any consensus concerning this theory among investigators. At various stages of the investigation, possible hijacking scenarios were considered, including crew involvement, and suspicion of the airplane's cargo manifest; many unofficial theories have also been proposed by the media. The Malaysian Ministry of Transport's final report from July 2018 was inconclusive, but highlighted Malaysian air traffic controllers' failures to attempt to communicate with the aircraft shortly after its disappearance. In the absence of a definitive cause of the disappearance, safety recommendations and regulations of the air transport industry, citing Flight 370, have been intended mostly to prevent a repetition of the circumstances associated with the loss. These include increased battery life on underwater locator beacons, lengthening of recording times on flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders, and new standards for aircraft position reporting over open ocean.

Mediterranean Sea

The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Southern Europe and Anatolia, on the south by North Africa and on the east by the Levant. Although the sea is sometimes considered a part of the Atlantic Ocean, it is usually identified as a separate body of water. Geological evidence indicates that around 5.9 million years ago, the Mediterranean was cut off from the Atlantic and was partly or completely desiccated over a period of some 600,000 years, the Messinian salinity crisis, before being refilled by the Zanclean flood about 5.3 million years ago.

It covers an approximate area of 2.5 million km2 (965,000 sq mi), representing 0.7 % of the global ocean surface, but its connection to the Atlantic (the Strait of Gibraltar) is only 14 km (8.7 mi) wide. The Strait of Gibraltar is a narrow strait that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and separates Spain in Europe from Morocco in Africa. In oceanography, it is sometimes called the Eurafrican Mediterranean Sea or the European Mediterranean Sea to distinguish it from mediterranean seas elsewhere.The Mediterranean Sea has an average depth of 1,500 m (4,900 ft) and the deepest recorded point is 5,267 m (17,280 ft) in the Calypso Deep in the Ionian Sea. The sea is bordered on the north by Europe, the east by Asia, and in the south by Africa. It is located between latitudes 30° and 46° N and longitudes 6° W and 36° E. Its west-east length, from the Strait of Gibraltar to the Gulf of Iskenderun, on the southwestern coast of Turkey, is approximately 4,000 km (2,500 miles). The sea's average north-south length, from Croatia's southern shore to Libya, is approximately 800 km (500 miles).

The sea was an important route for merchants and travellers of ancient times that allowed for trade and cultural exchange between emergent peoples of the region. The history of the Mediterranean region is crucial to understanding the origins and development of many modern societies.

The countries surrounding the Mediterranean in clockwise order are Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco; Malta and Cyprus are island countries in the sea. In addition, the Gaza Strip and the British Overseas Territories of Gibraltar and Akrotiri and Dhekelia have coastlines on the sea.

Ocean current

An ocean current is a continuous, directed movement of sea water generated by a number of forces acting upon the water, including wind, the Coriolis effect, breaking waves, cabbeling, and temperature and salinity differences. Depth contours, shoreline configurations, and interactions with other currents influence a current's direction and strength. Ocean currents are primarily horizontal water movements.

Ocean currents flow for great distances, and together, create the global conveyor belt which plays a dominant role in determining the climate of many of the Earth’s regions. More specifically, ocean currents influence the temperature of the regions through which they travel. For example, warm currents traveling along more temperate coasts increase the temperature of the area by warming the sea breezes that blow over them. Perhaps the most striking example is the Gulf Stream, which makes northwest Europe much more temperate than any other region at the same latitude. Another example is Lima, Peru, where the climate is cooler, being sub-tropical, than the tropical latitudes in which the area is located, due to the effect of the Humboldt Current.


Oceanography (compound of the Greek words ὠκεανός meaning "ocean" and γράφω meaning "write"), also known as oceanology, is the study of the physical and biological aspects of the ocean. It is an Earth science, which covers a wide range of topics, including ecosystem dynamics; ocean currents, waves, and geophysical fluid dynamics; plate tectonics and the geology of the sea floor; and fluxes of various chemical substances and physical properties within the ocean and across its boundaries. These diverse topics reflect multiple disciplines that oceanographers blend to further knowledge of the world ocean and understanding of processes within: astronomy, biology, chemistry, climatology, geography, geology, hydrology, meteorology and physics. Paleoceanography studies the history of the oceans in the geologic past.

Pacific Ocean

The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Southern Ocean (or, depending on definition, to Antarctica) in the south and is bounded by Asia and Australia in the west and the Americas in the east.

At 165,250,000 square kilometers (63,800,000 square miles) in area (as defined with an Antarctic southern border), this largest division of the World Ocean—and, in turn, the hydrosphere—covers about 46% of Earth's water surface and about one-third of its total surface area, making it larger than all of Earth's land area combined. The centers of both the Water Hemisphere and the Western Hemisphere are in the Pacific Ocean. The equator subdivides it into the North Pacific Ocean and South Pacific Ocean, with two exceptions: the Galápagos and Gilbert Islands, while straddling the equator, are deemed wholly within the South Pacific. Its mean depth is 4,000 meters (13,000 feet). The Mariana Trench in the western North Pacific is the deepest point in the world, reaching a depth of 10,911 meters (35,797 feet). The western Pacific has many peripheral seas.

Though the peoples of Asia and Oceania have traveled the Pacific Ocean since prehistoric times, the eastern Pacific was first sighted by Europeans in the early 16th century when Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa crossed the Isthmus of Panama in 1513 and discovered the great "southern sea" which he named Mar del Sur (in Spanish). The ocean's current name was coined by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan during the Spanish circumnavigation of the world in 1521, as he encountered favorable winds on reaching the ocean. He called it Mar Pacífico, which in both Portuguese and Spanish means "peaceful sea".

Pacific Ocean theater of World War II

The Pacific Ocean theater, during World War II, was a major theater of the war between the Allies and the Empire of Japan. It was defined by the Allied powers' Pacific Ocean Area command, which included most of the Pacific Ocean and its islands, while mainland Asia was excluded, as were the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies, Borneo, Australia, most of the Territory of New Guinea and the western part of the Solomon Islands.

It officially came into existence on March 30, 1942, when US Admiral Chester Nimitz was appointed Supreme Allied Commander Pacific Ocean Areas. In the other major theater in the Pacific region, known as the South West Pacific theatre, Allied forces were commanded by US General Douglas MacArthur. Both Nimitz and MacArthur were overseen by the US Joint Chiefs and the Western Allies Combined Chiefs of Staff (CCoS).

Most Japanese forces in the theater were part of the Combined Fleet (聯合艦隊, Rengō Kantai) of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN), which was responsible for all Japanese warships, naval aircraft, and marine infantry units. The Rengō Kantai was led by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, until he was killed in an attack by U.S. fighter planes in April 1943. Yamamoto was succeeded by Admiral Mineichi Koga (1943–44) and Admiral Soemu Toyoda (1944–45). The General Staff (参謀本部, Sanbō Honbu) of the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) was responsible for Imperial Japanese Army ground and air units in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. The IJN and IJA did not formally use joint/combined staff at the operational level, and their command structures/geographical areas of operations overlapped with each other and those of the Allies.

In the Pacific Ocean theater, Japanese forces fought primarily against the United States Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Army. The United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and other Allied nations also contributed forces.


Pangaea or Pangea ( ) was a supercontinent that existed during the late Paleozoic and early Mesozoic eras. It assembled from earlier continental units approximately 335 million years ago, and it began to break apart about 175 million years ago. In contrast to the present Earth and its distribution of continental mass, much of Pangaea was in the southern hemisphere and surrounded by a superocean, Panthalassa. Pangaea was the most recent supercontinent to have existed and the first to be reconstructed by geologists.


The sea, the world ocean or simply the ocean is the connected body of salty water that covers over 70 percent of the Earth's surface. It moderates the Earth's climate and has important roles in the water cycle, carbon cycle, and nitrogen cycle. It has been travelled and explored since ancient times, while the scientific study of the sea—oceanography—dates broadly from the voyages of Captain James Cook to explore the Pacific Ocean between 1768 and 1779. The word "sea" is also used to denote smaller, partly landlocked sections of the ocean and certain large, entirely landlocked, saltwater lakes such as the Caspian Sea and the Dead Sea.

The most abundant solid dissolved in sea water is sodium chloride. 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. Winds blowing over the surface of the sea produce waves, which break when they enter shallow water. Winds also create surface currents through friction, setting up slow but stable circulations of water throughout the oceans. The directions of the circulation are governed by factors including the shapes of the continents and the rotation of the earth (the Coriolis effect). Deep-sea currents, known as the global conveyor belt, carry cold water from near the poles to every ocean. Tides, the generally twice-daily rise and fall of sea levels, are caused by the rotation of the Earth and the gravitational effects of the orbiting Moon, and to a lesser extent of the Sun. Tides may have a very high range in bays or estuaries. 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 waters and the shoreline to the enormous depths and pressures of the cold, dark abyssal zone, and in latitude from the cold waters under the Arctic ice to the colourful diversity of coral reefs in tropical regions. Many of the major groups of organisms evolved in the sea and life may have started there.

The sea provides substantial supplies of food for humans, mainly fish, but also shellfish, mammals and seaweed, whether caught by fishermen or farmed underwater. Other human uses of the sea include trade, travel, mineral extraction, power generation, warfare, and leisure activities such as swimming, sailing, and scuba diving. Many of these activities create marine pollution. 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.

Southern Ocean

The Southern Ocean, also known as the Antarctic Ocean or the Austral Ocean, comprises the southernmost waters of the World Ocean, generally taken to be south of 60° S latitude and encircling Antarctica. As such, it is regarded as the fourth largest of the five principal oceanic divisions: smaller than the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans but larger than the Arctic Ocean. This ocean zone is where cold, northward flowing waters from the Antarctic mix with warmer subantarctic waters.

By way of his voyages in the 1770s, Captain James Cook proved that waters encompassed the southern latitudes of the globe. Since then, geographers have disagreed on the Southern Ocean's northern boundary or even existence, considering the waters as various parts of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans, instead. However, according to Commodore John Leech of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), recent oceanographic research has discovered the importance of Southern Circulation, and the term Southern Ocean has been used to define the body of water which lies south of the northern limit of that circulation. This remains the current official policy of the IHO, since a 2000 revision of its definitions including the Southern Ocean as the waters south of the 60th parallel has not yet been adopted. Others regard the seasonally-fluctuating Antarctic Convergence as the natural boundary.The maximum depth of the Southern Ocean, using the definition that it lies south of 60th parallel, was surveyed by the Five Deeps Expedition in early February 2019. The expedition's multibeam sonar team identified the deepest point at 60° 28' 46"S, 025° 32' 32"W, with a depth of 7,434 meters. The expedition leader and chief submersible pilot Victor Vescovo, has proposed naming this deepest point in the Southern Ocean the "Factorian Deep," based on the name of the manned submersible DSV Limiting Factor, in which he successfully visited the bottom for the first time on February 3, 2019.

Tropical cyclone

A tropical cyclone is a rapidly rotating storm system characterized by a low-pressure center, a closed low-level atmospheric circulation, strong winds, and a spiral arrangement of thunderstorms that produce heavy rain. Depending on its location and strength, a tropical cyclone is referred to by different names, including hurricane (), typhoon (), tropical storm, cyclonic storm, tropical depression, and simply cyclone. A hurricane is a tropical cyclone that occurs in the Atlantic Ocean and northeastern Pacific Ocean, and a typhoon occurs in the northwestern Pacific Ocean; in the south Pacific or Indian Ocean, comparable storms are referred to simply as "tropical cyclones" or "severe cyclonic storms"."Tropical" refers to the geographical origin of these systems, which form almost exclusively over tropical seas. "Cyclone" refers to their winds moving in a circle, whirling round their central clear eye, with their winds blowing counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. The opposite direction of circulation is due to the Coriolis effect. Tropical cyclones typically form over large bodies of relatively warm water. They derive their energy through the evaporation of water from the ocean surface, which ultimately recondenses into clouds and rain when moist air rises and cools to saturation. This energy source differs from that of mid-latitude cyclonic storms, such as nor'easters and European windstorms, which are fueled primarily by horizontal temperature contrasts. Tropical cyclones are typically between 100 and 2,000 km (62 and 1,243 mi) in diameter.

The strong rotating winds of a tropical cyclone are a result of the conservation of angular momentum imparted by the Earth's rotation as air flows inwards toward the axis of rotation. As a result, they rarely form within 5° of the equator. Tropical cyclones are almost unknown in the South Atlantic due to a consistently strong wind shear and a weak Intertropical Convergence Zone. Also, the African easterly jet and areas of atmospheric instability which give rise to cyclones in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, along with the Asian monsoon and Western Pacific Warm Pool, are features of the Northern Hemisphere and Australia.

Coastal regions are particularly vulnerable to the impact of a tropical cyclone, compared to inland regions. The primary energy source for these storms is warm ocean waters, therefore these forms are typically strongest when over or near water, and weaken quite rapidly over land. Coastal damage may be caused by strong winds and rain, high waves (due to winds), storm surges (due to wind and severe pressure changes), and the potential of spawning tornadoes. Tropical cyclones also draw in air from a large area—which can be a vast area for the most severe cyclones—and concentrate the precipitation of the water content in that air (made up from atmospheric moisture and moisture evaporated from water) into a much smaller area. This continual replacement of moisture-bearing air by new moisture-bearing air after its moisture has fallen as rain, which may cause extremely heavy rain and river flooding up to 40 kilometres (25 mi) from the coastline, far beyond the amount of water that the local atmosphere holds at any one time.

Though their effects on human populations are often devastating, tropical cyclones can relieve drought conditions. They also carry heat energy away from the tropics and transport it toward temperate latitudes, which may play an important role in modulating regional and global climate.


A tsunami (from Japanese: 津波, "harbour wave";

English pronunciation: soo-NAH-mee or ) or tidal wave,, also known as a seismic sea wave, is a series of waves in a water body caused by the displacement of a large volume of water, generally in an ocean or a large lake. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other underwater explosions (including detonations, landslides, glacier calvings, meteorite impacts and other disturbances above or below water all have the potential to generate a tsunami. Unlike normal ocean waves, which are generated by wind, or tides, which are generated by the gravitational pull of the Moon and the Sun, a tsunami is generated by the displacement of water.

Tsunami waves do not resemble normal undersea currents or sea waves because their wavelength is far longer. Rather than appearing as a breaking wave, a tsunami may instead initially resemble a rapidly rising tide. For this reason, it is often referred to as a "tidal wave", although this usage is not favoured by the scientific community because it might give the false impression of a causal relationship between tides and tsunamis. Tsunamis generally consist of a series of waves, with periods ranging from minutes to hours, arriving in a so-called "internal wave train". Wave heights of tens of metres can be generated by large events. Although the impact of tsunamis is limited to coastal areas, their destructive power can be enormous, and they can affect entire ocean basins. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was among the deadliest natural disasters in human history, with at least 230,000 people killed or missing in 14 countries bordering the Indian Ocean.

The Ancient Greek historian Thucydides suggested in his 5th century BC History of the Peloponnesian War that tsunamis were related to submarine earthquakes, but the understanding of tsunamis remained slim until the 20th century and much remains unknown. Major areas of current research include determining why some large earthquakes do not generate tsunamis while other smaller ones do; accurately forecasting the passage of tsunamis across the oceans; and forecasting how tsunami waves interact with shorelines.

Earth's oceans and seas
Arctic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
Indian Ocean
Pacific Ocean
Southern Ocean
Endorheic basins
Ocean zones
Sea level

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