No matter where you live, the ocean affects your life. Credit: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

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What will you learn on this voyage? This introductory course in oceanography surveys four broad topics: marine geology (what forces shape Earth and its ocean?), physical oceanography (what moves the ocean?), marine biology (what lives in the ocean?), and global change (what is our relationship with the changing ocean?).

Why come aboard now? Here are a dozen reasons why this is a crucial time to become familiar with the scientific field oceanography.

  • The concentration of atmospheric CO2 recently passed 400 ppm; the ocean has absorbed more than a quarter of anthropogenic CO2 emissions.
  • Earth’s surface temperatures (including ocean) are breaking records, month after month.
  • The ocean plays an enormous role in and is heavily affected by climate change.
  • 95% of the ocean is unexplored by humans; we know more about the surface of Mars and the moon than we do the bottom of the sea.
  • 22% of the coral in the Great Barrier Reef died in a recent mass bleaching event.
  • Recent research has discovered an important role for the ocean in driving consequences of climate change for human health.
  • One of the strongest El Niño events on record recently ended; predictions of the upcoming year are highly uncertain.
  • We have been living amid a decade of elevated hurricane activity; much research has linked this to warmer ocean temperatures.
  • Unprecedented Arctic sea ice loss occurred earlier this year.
  • Sea level rise is accelerating globally and projected to impact millions in the U.S. alone.
  • Ocean acidification threatens global biodiversity and food security for millions, and could lead some species to extinction.
  • A few years ago, world leaders reached an agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions in order to avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change; its future is now uncertain.

Prerequisites: Any two–course sequence of natural science courses (e.g., ATOC 1050 & 1060).

Ship’s Log: Oceanography: An Invitation to Marine Science by Tom Garrison (Brooks/Cole, Cengage). The 9th Ed. was published in 2015, but all editions back to the 7th (possibly earlier) are similar enough.