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Ocean & coasts education resources

While there is only one global ocean, the vast body of water that covers 71 percent of Earth is geographically divided into distinct regions. The U.S. recognizes five named oceans: Arctic, Atlantic, Indian, Pacific, and Southern.

The ocean and large inland lakes play an integral role in many of the Earth's systems including climate and weather. More than 50% of all species on Earth are found under the ocean and the ocean helps sustain human life above the water by providing 20 percent of the animal protein and five percent of the total protein in the human diet. In the US alone, there are over 95,000 miles of shoreline. More than half of the US population lives within 50 miles of the coast in the narrow area of land known as the "coastal zone."

This area of the education resources website provides links to NOAA resources that help explore the physical and chemical properties of the ocean and its adjacent ecosystems to advance ocean literacy. NOAA protects, preserves, manages and enhances the resources found in 3.5 million square miles of coastal and deep ocean waters. The agency provides products, services and information that promote safe navigation, support coastal communities, sustain marine ecosystems, and mitigate coastal hazards.

Source: National Ocean Service Ocean Facts
Showing 5 of 7 Education Resource Collections

Tsunamis

Expected tsunami wave heights from the March 2011 Honshu, Japan undersea earthquake.

Most of us have dropped a rock into the water and watched waves radiate outward. Tsunami waves are also formed from a disturbance and waves that radiate out from the source. Imagine the amount of energy that was required to start the massive movement of water that became the deadly March 2011 Honshu, Japan tsunami.

Ocean pollution

Marine debris washed ashore on the Hawaiian island of Kaho'olawe.

Where does all that trash come from? Where does it go? Much of it ends up on our beaches washed in with the waves and tides, some sinks, some is eaten by marine animals mistaking it for food. Other forms of pollution impacting the health of the ocean come from a single known sources like an oil spill or from accumulation of many dispersed sources like fertilizer from our yards.

Gulf oil spill

Dr. Brian Stacy, NOAA veterinarian, prepares to clean an oiled Kemp's Ridley turtle.

On April 20, 2010, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon/BP MC252 drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 workers and caused the rig to sink. As a result, oil began leaking into the Gulf creating one of the largest spills in American history. During the next 87 days an estimated 4 million barrels (168 million gallons) were released from the reservoir, of which 3.19 million (134 million gallons) were released into the Gulf of Mexico. 

Ocean acidification

Ocean acidification changes ocean chemistry and affects marine life.

For more than 200 years, or since the industrial revolution began, the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere has increased due to the burning of fossil fuels and land use change (e.g. increased car emissions and deforestation). During this time, the pH of surface ocean waters has fallen by 0.1 pH units. The pH scale, like the Richter scale, is logarithmic, so this change represents approximately a 30 percent increase in acidity.

Ocean currents

Map of temperature of the North Atlantic Ocean shows the warm Gulf Stream current along the East Coast of the United States transporting heat northward towards the cooler high latitudes.

Ocean water is on the move, affecting your climate, your local ecosystem, and the seafood that you eat. Ocean currents, abiotic features of the environment, are continuous and directed movements of ocean water. These currents are on the ocean’s surface and in its depths, flowing both locally and globally.