Part 1. Ocean-atmosphere Interactions

Image of ocean wave

Conceptual Understanding:

Key Question:

How do physical processes link the Earth’s atmospheric and ocean systems?

Key Content:

  • The operation of ocean currents, including their distribution, nutrient and energy transfers and the importance of oceanic conveyor belts.
  • Atmospheric-oceanic interactions associated with ENSO cycles (El Niño and La Niña) and their climatic, environmental and economic effects.
  • The formation, distribution and physical impacts of hurricanes on coastal margins, including storm surges.
  • The changing role of oceans as a store and source of carbon dioxide, and the impacts of ocean acidification on coral reefs.

Monday 18 September 2023

Starter: Oceans and Seas Kahoot Quiz!

Oceans of the World

Ocean Currents

Have you ever looked at a map of the world or a globe? Look at all the water on the Earth. A lot of the bodies of water are connected to each other. In fact, the world’s oceans are really one large world ocean. Consider the following questions:

  1. Where on Earth do you think the water is warmer or colder? Warm water is near the equator and cold water is near the poles.
  2. What do you think happens when the cold water from the north and south poles meets the warm water from the equator? Well, the answer is currents. Currents are movements of water in oceans (or lakes). The ocean’s water currents move continuously around the Earth, which keeps its temperatures stable.
  3. How does the ocean help keep the temperatures of the Earth regular? Well, the ocean water affects the temperature of the atmosphere in part by absorbing incoming radiation from the sun, and then the ocean currents mix the warm and cool waters together, keeping the temperatures from getting too hot.
  4. How salty is the ocean? The amount of salt in water is called its salinity. The salinity of the oceans and seas are different throughout the world, but the average salt content is 2.2 pounds of salt for every cubic foot of water. The saltiest seawater is in the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf region, which is 40 o/oo (parts per thousand) salt. The least salty water is in the polar regions, where the water is mixed with melting ice and heavy precipitation.
  5. Consider an iceberg that sits in the ocean for centuries. It is composed of fresh or salt water? Icebergs are formed when parts of the Antarctic ice sheet break off. The ice sheet, which covers the continent, is formed by snow and ice falling on inland areas, thus icebergs are freshwater.

Properties of Water

Task 1. We will first look at some properties of fresh water and ocean water, how water mixes, and how salt water moves in fresh water.

Complete the worksheet below as we conduct the three activities that investigate the properties of water.

  1. Follow that current
  2. Currents in the wind
  3. Fresh water floats?

Lesson 1. Ocean Currents (Google Doc)

​The Thermohaline Conveyor Belt

Task 2. Watch the video below and answer the following questions:

  1. What are ocean currents driven by?
  2. What are the two main categories of ocean currents?
  3. At up to what depth is water still affected by the wind at the Earth’s surface?
  4. How big is the thermohaline conveyor belt and how long does it take to complete a full cycle?
  5. What drives the conveyor belts movement in the Arctic?
  6. What would happen to ocean currents if the earth didn’t rotate?
  7. How did the shipping containers of 28,000 ducks help map ocean currents?

The Ocean: A Driving Force for Weather and Climate

Task 3. Watch the following video and answer the questions on the worksheet.

Wednesday 20 September 2023

Ocean Currents and Nutrient Transfers

Starter: Ocean Currents Quizziz!

Task 1. Complete the match-up task outlining the movement of the Great Ocean Conveyor Belt and how this transfers nutrients and energy across the globe.

Lesson 2. Ocean Currents and Nutrient Transfers (Google Doc)

El Niño and La Niña

How does temperature of the ocean interact with the atmosphere?

Ocean temperature interacts with the atmosphere by providing water vapor. Warm oceans evaporate causing air to rise.

Warm ocean temperatures leads to rising air through convection. Rising air causes atmospheric pressure to fall. Low pressure draws in surface winds. These winds in the southern Pacific are called Trade Winds.

The Trade Winds move normally from east to west (in the Pacific) concentrating warmer water in the west Pacific.

Cyclical changes in the spacial pattern of warm water influences the patterns of air pressure, which in turn influence the strength and direction of winds, which result in further changes in the spatial concentration of warm water.

What is El Niño and La Niña?

El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is an irregular periodic variation in winds and sea surface temperatures over the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean, affecting the climate of much of the tropics and subtropics. The warming phase of the sea temperature is known as El Niño and the cooling phase as La Niña.

Task 2. Watch the following video and make no notes. Next, work with a partner to complete the transcript for the graphic-documentary sheet below.

Lesson 2. Graphic Documentary Sheet (Google Doc)

Impacts of El Niño

Task 3. Read the impacts of El Niño that you have been given.

  1. Working individually or in pairs classify these impacts into one of the geographical frameworks outlined below.
  2. Then choose a different framework and classify them again.
  3. Now, try to categorise the statements in a way that incorporates all four categories.
  • Social, economic, environmental.
  • Short term, long term.
  • Physical, human.
  • Local, regional, national, global.

Lesson 2. El Niño Impacts (Google Doc)

Impacts of La Niña

Task 4. Watch the following three videos and make notes on the impacts La Nina.

Thursday 21 September 2023

Geographical Impacts of El Niño

Today’s work will be an assessed. You are to create a case study of the geographical impacts of either:

  • The 1997-1998 El Niño event.
  • The 2015-2016 El Niño event.
  • The 2010-2011 La Niña event.

You must create an ArcGIS StoryMap to communicate your case study and you should use the following Geofactsheets to help you with your research.

Success Criteria:

  1. Definition of El Niño/La Niña.
  2. Definition of teleconnections.
  3. Diagram to show how/why El Niño/La Niña. occurs which is annotated underneath to explain what the diagram shows.
  4. Possible causes of El Niño/La Niña. (causes are unknown but give suggestions that have been made by scientists).
  5. Impacts of El Niño/La Niña:
    • At least three specific climatic impacts.
    • At least three specific environmental impacts.
    • At least six specific socio-economic impacts.
    • These impacts must be linked to a map as either a flyover tour feature or general map feature.
  6. At least four photographs which shows the impacts with a description of what they are showing underneath the photo.
  7. Have statistics where possible (loss of life, economic cost, insurance cost etc)
  8. Citations list.

Due: Monday 25 September 2023

Monday 25 September 2023

The Formation, Distribution and Physical Impacts of Hurricanes

Did you know??

  • Hurricanes (North America)
  • Cyclones (India)
  • Typhoons (Japan and East Asia). 
  • Willy willies (Australia)

Starter: The Distribution of Hurricanes

  1. Study the following maps. In your opinion, which of the maps is best for showing the distribution of hurricanes?
  2. Use the maps to add some data and patterns to your map template to show the distribution of hurricanes.
  3. Now describe the global distribution pattern of hurricanes underneath.

Task 1. How do Hurricanes Form?

Watch the following two videos on how a hurricane forms and use them to help you organise the card sort given – you should sequence the cards into the correct order and place them around the anatomy of a hurricane diagram.

Task 2. Storm Surges

Hurricanes often lead to storm surges which can have devastating consequences. Watch the two videos below and answer the questions on the worksheet below.

Lesson 4. Storm Surges Worksheet (Google Doc)

Task 3. What Influences the Size and Strength of a Storm Surge?

There are several factors that contribute to the amount of surge a given storm produces at a given location:

  1. Central pressure (low or high)
  2. Storm intensity (strong or weak winds)
  3. Size of storm (large or small)
  4. Speed of storm (fast or slow)
  5. Angle of approach (parallel or perpendicular)
  6. Shape of coatline (concave or convex)
  7. Width and slope of ocean bottom (wide and gentle or narrow and steep)
  8. Local features (natural barriers or none)

For each of the above factors explain how these will influence the size and strength of a storm surge.

Thursday 28 September 2023

The Physical Impacts of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in The Philippines (2013)

Starter. Before and After

Study the following Landsat 8 image showing part of the Philippines coastline before and after Typhoon Haiyan (click on the image to be taken to a site which shows a before and after image of the area).

  1. Working with a partner, use evidence from the image to create an initial assessment of the impacts shown.
  2. Complete the assessment sheet linked below. 

Lesson 4. Typhoon Haiyan Impact Assessment (Google Doc)

Task 1. Mapping the Scale of Impacts

Study the following map showing the geographical pattern and scale of Impact across the Philippines from Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda)

Suggest reason for the geographical pattern of sites where impact was greatest.

Task 2. Impacts of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda)

Watch the following video and make notes on the hazards that came with Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda).

Task 3. Impacts of Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban – Article Analysis

Using the site below examine the impacts of Typhoon Haiyan on Tacloban and complete this worksheet (Google Doc).

NY Times Article

Task 4. Impacts of Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban – Card Sort

In pairs, study the card sort given which shows the impacts of Typhoon Haiyan.

  1. Group the cards into a recognisable geographical classification.
  2. Now place them into short term and long term impacts
  3. Now place them into consequence charts where one impact leads to another.


Read this Guardian report based on the challenges people were facing 1 year after the typhoon. Make notes on the long term impacts.

Monday 02 October 2023

The Changing Role of Oceans

Enquiry Question:

How is the oceans’ influence on the carbon cycle changing and what are it impacts on marine health and coral reefs?

Lesson Objectives:

  • To examine the changing role of oceans as a store and source of carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • To examine the impacts of ocean acidification on coral reefs

Starter: Watch the following video and describe the spatial extent of ocean temperature change.

Task 2. The Carbon Cycle

Using the resources below to help you, write a transcript for the following NASA Video on the carbon cycle.

Task 3. Ocean Carbon Storage

Study the following diagram and using the text (below) annotate your copy of the diagram showing ocean influences on carbon storage.

The ocean plays an important part in the carbon cycle. Overall, the ocean is called a carbon ‘sink’ because it takes up more carbon from the atmosphere than it gives up. Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere dissolves in the surface waters of the ocean. Some of the carbon dioxide stays as dissolved gas, but much of it gets turned into other things. Photosynthesis by tiny marine plants (phytoplankton) in the sunlit surface waters turns the carbon into organic matter. Many organisms use carbon to make calcium carbonate, a building material of shells and skeletons. Other chemical processes create calcium carbonate in the water. The using up of carbon by biological and chemical processes allows more carbon dioxide to enter the water from the atmosphere. Living things in the ocean move carbon from the atmosphere into surface waters then down into the deeper ocean and eventually into rocks. This action of organisms moving carbon in one direction is often called a biological pump.

Carbon gets incorporated into marine organisms as organic matter or structural calcium carbonate. When organisms die, their dead cells, shells and other parts sink into deep water. Decay releases carbon dioxide into this deep water. Some material sinks right to the bottom, where it forms layers of carbon-rich sediments. Over millions of years, chemical and physical processes may turn these sediments into rocks. This part of the carbon cycle can lock up carbon for millions of years.

Use the The Science Learning Hub and use the interactive resource to  examine parts of the ocean carbon cycle.

Task 4. Ocean Acidification

Watch the following video and answer the questions on this document about ocean acidification.

Task 5. The Impact of Ocean Acidification on Coral Reefs

a. Investigate the impacts of carbon change and ocean acidification on the coral reefs using David Attenborough’s amazing interactive resource linked below. Make notes on these impacts.

b. Watch the following video and make notes on the impact of ocean acidity on coral reefs in the Florida Keys.

PBS Video

Homework: Complete the ‘Check Your Understanding’ questions on page 64.

Due: Monday 09 October 2023.