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The oceans and the atmosphere are inextricably linked, constantly exchanging matter and energy. In fact, the vast majority of land-based rainfall can be traced back to oceanic evaporation. Also, because oceans fuel major oceanic weather systems, such as hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons, warmer waters usually translate into higher energy storms. El NiƱo-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events are characterized by changes in sea surface temperatures (SST) in the tropical Eastern Pacific, changes in air pressure in the tropical Western Pacific, and other accompanying changes. ENSO events cause severe weather patterns in many regions of the world, from increased rainfall in California to drought-like conditions in northeastern South America. This demonstrates the interconnectedness of our global climate system.

Since the oceans are in dynamic equilibrium with the atmosphere, when the atmosphere warms, much of that energy is transferred directly into the oceans. Then, as the oceans circulate around the globe, they can transport heat across the planet and transfer much of that energy back into the atmosphere. This affects both the weather and climate of the global system.

Your Turn

Question: How might warmer oceans affect the climate in the region where you live?