The Physics
Factbook
An encyclopedia of scientific essays

Temperature of the Ocean

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Bibliographic Entry Result
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Standardized
Result
Groves, Donald. The Oceans: A Book of Questions and Answers. John Wiley & Sons, 1989: 26. "Below the thermoclines; water temperatures decrease slowly to about 35-37 F in most deep-oceans bottoms." 1.67โ€“2.78 °C
"Below the ocean's top sun-warmed layer is much denser and colder (50 F) layer." 10 °C
The World Ocean. Columbia Encyclopedia. 28 May 2007. "The average temperature of the ocean is 3.9 °C (39 F)." 3.9 °C
Global Surface Temperature Anomalies. National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service 6 February 2006. [see table below] 13.9โ€“16.1 °C
Royal Geographical Journal: (Great Britain). The Geographical Journal. Royal Geographical Society, 1899: 430. "It is estimated that 92 per cent of the entire sea-floor has a temperature lower than 40 degrees Fahr." 4.5 °C
Temperature of Ocean Water, University of Michigan. August 31, 2001. "The average temperature of the ocean surface water is about 17 °C (62.6 F)." 17 °C
"So even though surface waters can be a comfortable 20 degrees Celsius (good for swimming in!), the majority of our ocean water has a temperature between 0-3 degrees Celsius (32-37.5 degrees Fahrenheit)." 0-3 °C

The ocean is an enormous body of salt water that covers about 70% of the Earth's surface. The ocean has an area of 361 million square kilometers, it has a volume over 1,340 million cubic kilometers and it has an average depth of 3,711 meters. The World Ocean consists of five other oceans, which are the Arctic Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and Antarctic or Southern Ocean. Less than 2% of the Earth's surface water is freshwater the rest, is just saltwater.

Only the first few tens or so meters of water is able to absorb solar radiation causing different temperature at different surface. This is called the photic zone. The temperature here usually varies with latitude. In the Persian Gulf which is located near the equator, water can be as warm as 36 degrees Celsius (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Water temperatures can be low as -2 degrees Celsius (28.4 degrees Fahrenheit) at the Arctic and Antarctic Seas. The average temperature of the entire ocean surfaces usually ranges from 15 to 17 degrees Celsius (59 to 62.9 degrees Fahrenheit).

There is a barrier between the surface water and deeper layers of the ocean that are not mixed. The barrier begins around 100 meters and can extend another few hundred meters downwards. There is a thermo cline meaning there is a quick change in temperature when entering the deeper surface of water. A CTD (Conductivity, Temperature and Depth) instrument (usually placed in the water from a ship or a platform) measures temperature in the deep ocean. Recordings have shown that the average temperature of water ranges from 0-3 degrees Celsius (32โ€“37.5 degrees Fahrenheit).

Back in 1899 it was estimated that 92% of the ocean floor had a temperature of lower than 40 degrees Fahrenheit. However, as time progressed global warming (phenomenon where the average annual temperature of the Earth increases) is changing the ocean's average temperature. In places such as the tropical seas, surface temperatures have increased as much as 0.5 degrees Celsius (1 degree Fahrenheit) between the 1990s and the mid-1960s. As a result, there were serve hurricane increases, such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The Arctic and Antarctic Sea ice are also melting due to warmer temperatures of water. This leads to an increase in water levels of the ocean, further increasing global heating. Alpine glaciers are also melting, which results in an increase in the freshwater runoff to local human populations. It also decreases the water in salinity.

Hence, there really is no real average temperature of the ocean due to different surface waters and global warming.

Global Mean Monthly Surface Temperature Estimates for the Base Period 1901 to 2000
Sea Surface Mean Temp. J F M A M J J A S O N D Annual
1901 to 2000 ( °C) 15.8 15.9 15.9 16.0 16.3 16.4 16.4 16.4 16.2 15.9 15.8 15.7 16.1
1901 to 2000 ( F) 60.5 60.6 60.7 60.9 61.3 61.5 61.5 61.4 61.1 60.6 60.4 60.4 60.9
Combined Mean Surface Temp.                          
1901 to 2000 ( °C) 12.0 12.1 12.7 13.7 14.8 15.5 15.8 15.6 15.0 14.0 12.9 12.2 13.9
1901 to 2000 ( F) 53.6 53.9 54.9 56.7 58.6 59.9 60.4 60.1 59.0 57.1 55.2 54.0 57.0

Lily Li -- 2007