The oceans
The oceans

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

The oceans

3.3.1 The surface temperature

The only significant source of energy heating the oceans is from the absorption of solar radiation arriving at the surface. The low albedo of water means that most solar radiation is absorbed to heat the surface - and generally, the greater the intensity of the incoming solar energy, the warmer the water (Figure 9).

Described image
Figure 9 The global sea-surface temperature in January 2014 recorded by satellite. Areas of uniform sea-surface temperature are the same colour and the scale is in °C.

In general, the sea-surface temperature (SST) is colder at high latitudes and warmer in the mid-latitude and equatorial regions, but there are exceptions. For example, the North Atlantic coast of Africa has an SST of ~15 °C compared with >28 °C at the same latitude on the other side of the Atlantic. Note the light blue along the northwest European coast (see Figure 1), and the green 'tongue' of water extending up the west coast of South America. Clearly, there is more to the surface temperature distribution than simply incoming solar energy. The heat must be being redistributed.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371