Hydrosphere: Oceans

A Bit of Engineering

The JOIDES Resolution is an amazing ship that contains all the equipment necessary to drill into the ocean floor for samples of rock and sediment: a derrick, drill pipe, drilling tools, and drill bits. Once the cylindrical core sample arrives on the rig floor, the drill crew passes the 10 m core to technicians. They, in turn, carry it to the catwalk, where it is cut into 1.5 m sections and labeled. After the core is brought up on deck, the technicians notify the rest of the crew by yelling: "CORE ON DECK!"

Cracked Plates & Tectonics

In this activity, you’ll investigate dynamics in Earth’s crust that explain multiple Earth science phenomena.

Deep-Sea Drilling

This activity enables students to estimate and calculate scales of distance and length as used by ocean drilling scientists.

Drill Site Dilemma

This activity gives your students a glimpse at the difficulty of seafloor surveying, as well as the challenges the JOIDES Resolution faces during each expedition. Your students also will learn about latitude and longitude and plotting coordinates.

Earth's Hydrologic Cycle

The ocean is the key element in Earth's hydrologic cycle (water cycle). Students will construct a simple model of the hydrologic cycle to help them visualize and understand the movement of liquid water and heat.

Exploring Climate Change with GIS

The factors at play in shaping our climate as well as the manifestation of its effects are geographic in nature. Geographic Information System (GIS) technology and methods are vital in documenting, monitoring, analyzing, and predicting these dynamic activities and interdependencies. Climate scientists and others in numerous careers and disciplines use GIS and its integrative nature to tackle these issues. You can, too.

How Dangerous Are Tsunamis?

Imagine playing beside the ocean, when suddenly, the water drops. Where the water used to be, there are wriggling fish and ribbons of seaweed. What do you do?

Measure for Measure

Geoscientists use special boats to conduct research at sea. One of these boats is named the JOIDES Resolution (JR). Unlike most oceangoing vessels, the JR has a flat bottom, a 6.4-meter hole in the middle, 12 laboratories, and a derrick towering 67 meters above the waterline! Why? So scientists can sail nearly anywhere in the world to drill for samples of rocks and sediment from below the seafloor. What for? In hopes of discovering clues about Earth's history and structure, life in the deep biosphere, past climate change, earthquakes and natural resources.

Measuring Glacial Retreat

The USGS has been studying glaciers in Glacier National Park since 1850. It is estimated that there were 150 glaciers in the park back then, and when the national park was established in 1910. Today only 25 glaciers remain.

 Scientists go back every year to repeat photographs, as well as to examine the ice and the ecology of the landscape to see how glacial retreat is affecting plant and animal species that live there.

Ocean Acidification

The ocean is a “carbon sink,” which means that it removes CO2 (carbon dioxide) from the atmosphere. The ocean currently absorbs about one-third of the CO2 released by the burning of fossil fuels.

However, beyond a certain level of atmospheric CO2, the ocean can no longer act as a carbon sink without it having a negative impact on marine life. When CO2 dissolves in seawater, it leads to decreased pH levels. The ocean becomes less alkaline. This is referred to as ocean acidification.


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