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Education: Student Outcomes
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Outcome: Describe how changes in the ocean's circulation can produce large changes in climate.
Grade level: 9-12
As with similar questions about a tree in the forest or a grain of sand on the beach, it may be hard to imagine that a few inches of rain matters to the deep ocean. After all, the ocean's average depth is around 4 kilometers and only 1 to 5 centimeters of water are held in the atmosphere at any one time. But it does matter, in part because the ocean is salty. The effect of rain diluting the salts in the ocean (or evaporation concentrating them) can be greater than the effect of heating (or cooling) on the density of seawater.