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Ocean & Earth System

Blue Marble Just by looking at images of Earth from space, it's clear that the ocean is a significant piece of the Earth's story. In fact, the ocean represents over 70% of the Earth's surface and contains 97% of all water on Earth. The ocean stores heat like a "fly wheel" for climate. Its huge capacity as a heat and water reservoir moderates the climate of Earth. Within this Earth system, both the physical and biological processes of the ocean play a key role in the water cycle, the carbon cycle, and climate variability.

Oceans pyramid

 

Ocean related feedback exists between Climate Variability, Water Cycle and Carbon Cycle. This diagram illustrates the value of the ocean's role in the Earth system.

Even if you live nowhere near the ocean, you will still experience the ocean's influence in our Earth system. Most of the rain that falls on landcomes from the tropical ocean. The ocean is the primary driver of weather and climate and can give us clues to global phenomenon such as El Niño. The phytoplankton (microscopic plants) that live in the ocean are responsible for almost half the oxygen you inhale and play a vital role in the carbon cycle. Far inland from the ocean, fields of crops enjoy rainwater that traveled through the water cycle and spent a few days or perhaps thousands of years cycling through the ocean.

Learn more about the ocean's influence on the Earth system:

 

NASA searches for answers to questions as old as humanity, and asks new ones. View all of NASA's missions studying the oceans.