Study outline oceanography

updated September 28, 2013

Note: this guide is merely a general overview of the material in the chapters. It is not exhaustive, and it may be missing some key points. There is no substitute for making your own outline of a chapter while you are studying.

General suggestions for studying

1.     Read over the chapter contents on the first page of each chapter—this gives you an overview of what’s in the chapter and also shows you how it’s broken down into parts.

2.     Look through all the graphics, the pictures and diagrams and read the captions. This helps you visualize while you are reading and also gives you some snap shots of what the author is presenting.

3.     Read the brief reviews that summarize individual sections and the summary of the entire chapter.

4.     Scan the list of terms. Do you really know what each term means? If you are not sure of the precise meaning, dig into the chapter and glossary to find out. Remember to use the index at the end of the book to help you find terms.

5.     Be able to answer the questions for review.

6.     Read the chapter and take notes as you read.

7.     Go over your notes from class.



Preface: What is science?

What is the difference between a hypothesis and a scientific theory?

You should be able to define both words.  The scientific process is often called the empirical method because it is based on measurements and/or observations.


Chapter 1, Introduction to Planet “Earth”

1.     Know the locations and relative sizes of the principal oceans of Earth. What kind of land forms border the oceans?

2.     Name the deepest ocean trench and explain when it first explored by humans.

3.     Know the basics about the history of ocean exploration and how they contributed to our knowledge:

A.     Early ocean explorations and.  Examples: early Pacific islanders (4000 BC–900 AD), the Kon Tiki voyage, Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans.

B.     Oceanic explorations during the Middle Ages and contributions of Arabs, the Vikings, and the Ming Dynasty (1405-1433)

C.     Explorations of European explorers during the Renaissance (Age of Discovery); examples include Prince Henry the Navigator, Vasco da Gama, Christopher Columbus, John Cabot, Vasco Nùñez de Balboa,  Ferdinand Magellan, and Juan Sebastian del Caño.

D.     What were the contributions of James Cook to early ocean science.

4.     What are the systematic steps of the scientific method; explain why it is important.

5.     Know how to explain the difference between a hypothesis and a theory.

6.     Describe how the nebular hypothesis explains the formation of the solar system.

7.     Compare and contrast Protoearth, and early Earth with modern Earth.

8.     Describe density stratification in Earth and the resultant chemical structure. Be able to rouighly characterize the crust, mantle, and inner and outer core with respect to density and composition.

9.     Describe the physical structure of Earth as it relates to the property of strength and brittle vs. weak and ductile in terms of the asthenosphere and lithosphere.

10.  Distinguish between continental crust and oceanic crust including location, chemical, and physical properties of the crust.

11.  What are isostatic adjustment and isostatic rebound.

12.  Describe the formation of Earth’s early atmospheres

13.  Describe how photosynthesis played a role in forming atmospheric oxygen; know how it changed through geologic time, and about its implications for life and the conditions suitable for life.

14.  Describe how Earth’s oceans probably formed.

15.  Discuss the origin of the salts in ocean water.

16.  Discuss how scientists view the implications of Stanley Miller’s experiment involving the simulation of primitive Earth’s atmosphere on the origin of life on Earth.

17.  What is the evidence for evolution by natural selection.

18.  Define autotroph vs. heterotroph

19.  Describe the process of radiometric dating for deriving the age of the Earth.

Chapter 2 Plate tectonics and the ocean floor

1.     Describe some of the types of evidence that lead Alfred Wegener to formulate his Continental Drift theory.

2.     How did geologist Harry Hess come up with the idea of Sea Floor Spreading?

3.     Describe how paleomagnetism works and how it played a role in demonstrating sea floor spreading. What are magnetic reversals and magnetic stripes on the ocean floor?

4.     What is the Theory of Plate Tectonics and what does it explain about earthquakes and volcanoes?  What else does it explain, how?

5.     Be able to explain the three different types of tectonic plate boundaries, how they behave, examples of each, and the geologic features of each.

6.     Describe three types of convergent plate boundaries.

7.     What is a volcanic arc?

8.     Describe the overall age of the ocean floor vs. the age of or rocks composing the continents and explain why they are different.

9.     What are mantle plumes and hot spots? Give an example of a landform created at a hotspot.

10.  What are the stages in the development of a coral reef?

11.  What is tectonic accretion?

12.  What instrumentation allows us to determine and measure motions of tectonic plates?


Chapter 3 Marine provinces

1. How and what do we use to measure the seafloor? What is this called? Bathymetry, GLORIA, PDR, seismic reflection,  ETC

2. What is the hypsographic curve?
3. Know the different marine provinces: continental margins, continental slope, continental rise, abyssal plains, mid-Ocean Ridge;  
4. What are turbidity currents and what deposits do they leave? Where do they originate?
5. Deep see canyons--significance? What, and where, is a deep-sea fan?
6. Where do you find hydrothermal vents? What do you find there?
7. What's the difference between a fracture zone and a transform? Where are they?

Chapter 4 Marine sediments


Lithogenous Sediment



            Sediment Texture


Biogenous Sediment



            Sediment Texture


Hydrogenous Sediment


            Composition and Distribution

Cosmogenous Sediment

            Origin, Composition, and Distribution


Distribution of Neritic and Pelagic Deposits: A Summary

Events Revealed by Sea Floor Sediments

Ocean Sediments as a Resource


            Gas Hydrates

            Sand and Gravel

            Evaporative Salts

            Phosphorite (Phosphate Minerals)

            Manganese Nodules and Crusts

14.  Sediments vs. sedimentary rock: sediments can be produced by weathering or by accumulation of organic material. Sediments include fragments of rock or mineral debris that accumulate (sand, silt, etc)  or can included precipitates that come out of solution (salt, gypsum, calcium carbonate, silica, etc)

15.  2. Know the four main types of marine sediments: lithogenous, biogenous, hydrogenous.  

Chapter 5. Water and Seawate

Atomic Structure

The Water Molecule



            Interconnections of Molecules

            Water: The Universal Solvent

Water’s Thermal Properties

            Heat, Temperature, and Changes of State

            Water’s Freezing and Boiling Points

            Water’s Heat Capacity

            Water’s Latent Heat

Water Density



            Salinity Variations

            Determining Salinity

Dissolved Components Added and Removed from Seawater

Acidity and Alkalinity of Seawater

            The pH Scale

            The Carbonate Buffering System

Processes Affecting Seawater Salinity

            Processes that Decrease Seawater Salinity

            Processes that Increase Seawater Salinity

            The Hydrologic Cycle

Surface and Depth Salinity Variation

            Surface Salinity Variation

            Depth Salinity Variation

Seawater Density

            Pycnocline and Thermocline

Comparing Pure Water and Seawater



            Membrane Processes

            Other Methods of Desalination


Chapter 6: Air-Sea interaction

Earth’s Seasons

Uneven Solar Heating Effects

            Distribution of Solar Energy

            Oceanic Heat Flow

Atmospheric Physical Properties




            Water Vapor Content



Coriolis Effect Influence On Moving Objects

            Example 1: Perspective and Frames of Reference on a Merry-Go-Round

            Example 2: A Tale of Two Missiles

Global Atmospheric Circulation

            Circulation Cells


            Wind Belts


            Circulation Cells: Idealized or Real?

Oceanic Weather and Climate Patterns

            Weather Versus Climate


            Sea and Land Breezes

            Storms and Fronts

            Tropical Cyclones

            Ocean’s Climate Patterns

Sea Ice and Iceberg Formation

            Formation of Sea Ice

            Formation of Icebergs

Chapter 7 Ocean circulation

1.       Surface currents vs. Deep currents.

                    direct methods: floats, fixed devices
            indirect methods: radar, satellites, doppler

    deep water: ARGO, tracers

2.     Effects of global winds, Coriolis effect, continents, and friction on surface currents.

3.     Effects of salinity, temperature, density changes on thermohaline circulation, deep ocean conveyor belt

4.     Effects of thermohaline circulation on climate.

5.    Misc effects that influence circulation, sea surface elevation, upwelling/downwelling, biological productivity, etc

6.    Gulf stream effects, Sargasso Sea

7.    Monsoons--seasonal changes

mis    origin of surface currents--winds, Coriolis effect
    subtropical gyres: equatorial currents, boundary currents, equatorial countercurrents
    subpolar gyres
    Eckman spiral and Eckman transport
    Geostrophic flow
    western intensification
     ocean currents and climate
    upwelling and downwelling   productivity

Chapter 8 Waves and water dynamics

Chapter at a glance:           
     Most waves produced by storms
     Most move in circular motion
     In shallow water the physical characteristics of waves change.
     Tsunamis are high energy waves that can be very destructive.

ocean waves, atmospheric waves, internal waves

Progressive waves: longitudinal, transverse, orbital (three types of motion)
Characteristics of waves: wave crest, trough, wave height (H), wavelength (L), wave steepness, wave period (T), frequency (f), wave base (~1/2 L)
Deep-water waves, wave speed (S) aka Celerity (C) [relationship of wave speed to L and T]: longer L: higher S
Shallow-water waves: water depth is < L/20
transitional waves: L is 2–20 x water depth

Development of wind-generated waves:
Ripples = capillary waves
Gravity waves
Sea/ Sea area

Factors affecting wave energy: wind speed, duration, fetch
Beaufort Wind Scale
Location of highest wind speed and roaring 40s, furious 50s, screaming 60s.

Maximum height of waves?
Fully-developed sea--equilibrium condition
swell--move faster than the wind
wave trains - wave dispersion
decay distance
wave trains move at 1/2 velocity of individual waves
Interference patterns: constructive, destructive, mixed, "surf beat"
Rogue waves (sidebar on p. 243)
surf zone, shoaling water, spilling breaker, plunging breaker, surging breaker, surfing

wave refraction
wave reflection
standing waves

tsunami: causes: earthquake, landslide, volcanic eruption, meteor impact
splash waves (tsunami produced by meteor impact)
tsunami runup
noteable tsumanis
Pacific Tsunami Warning Center: sensors, buoys, tide-monitoring stations
wave power

Chapter 9 Tides

What causes tides?  What is the tidal bulge? 

What is a tidal period?

What are Spring tides vs. Neap tides?  Relate this to the position of the Moon in its orbit around the Earth.

Declination of the Moon and Sun--how does this effect the tidal bulge?

aphelion and perihelion vs. apogee and perigee? (p. 269)

Types of tidal patterns: what type do we have in the Puget Sound?

Tidal bores

Influence of tides on biological cycles.

 Potential use of tides for power: environmental effects?

Chapter 10 Beaches and coasts

  Note coastal features related to wave refraction and longshore drift: tombolos, spits, baymouth bars, etc, and effects of breakwaters, jetties, and groins.

  Examples of beach hardening or hard stabilization and effects thereof; beach replenishment, relocation.

   swash, backwash, etc

  Erosional shores, depositional shores and associated features; barrier islands, deltas, beach compartments/pocket beaches, submarine canyons, emerging shorelines, submerging shorelines.

  Eustatic (global) sea level changes vs. isostatic adjustments (ex: rebounding of Earth's crust and changing relative sea level after glacial melting)

Chapter 16 Oceans and climate

  1. Know Earth's environmental spheres and how  they interact.

2. Know feedback loops, paleoclimatology, proxy data examples, Oxygen isotopes

3. Milankovitch cycles; influence of sun on climate, etc

4. Influence of volcanoes on climate: could cause warming or cooling depending on style, type, size of eruption.

5. Past examples of fluctuating climate: Ice ages, Little Ice Age, Medieval optimum, etc.

6. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC

7. Know major "Greenhouse" gases, basic nature of Earth's heat budget, infrared energy etc

8. CO2, carbon cycle basics, impacts of fossil fuels.

9. Potential/likely changes to ocean from warming of climate.