Earth Science

Water on Earth

How Ocean Currents Moderate Climate

Study Tip
Recall that the equator is impacted most greatly by the Sun, and is thus the hottest part of the planet. This will help you remember that ocean currents transfer heat from equatorial regions (hottest) to higher latitudes.

Effect on Global Climate

  • Surface currents play an enormous role in Earth’s climate
  • Ocean currents transfer heat from the equatorial regions to the higher latitudes
  • Gulf Stream
  • River of warm water in the Atlantic Ocean
  • Water that enters is heated as it travels along the equator → flows up the east coast of North America and across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe
  • Energy transferred is more than 100 x the world’s energy demand
Study Tip
Recall that the equator is impacted most greatly by the Sun, and is thus the hottest part of the planet. This will help you remember that ocean currents transfer heat from equatorial regions (hottest) to higher latitudes.
  • Warm waters raise temperatures in the North Sea
  • Because air traveling over the warm water in the Gulf Stream picks up a lot of water, London gets a lot of rain but Quebec (six degrees north of London) gets a lot of snow
England in winter
London, England in winter
Quebec in winter
Quebec City, Quebec in winter
Concept Check
  • Explain why England is relatively mild and rainy in winter but central Canada, at the same latitude and during the same season, is dry and frigid.
  • Where else do you think ocean currents might moderate global climate?
  • What would Earth be like if ocean water did not move?