's Archive

What does the ocean have to do with human health?

This item was filled under [ Basics, Ecosystems, Facts, Health, Ocean Life ]


Our ocean and coasts affect us all—even those of us who don't live near the shoreline. Consider the economy. Through the fishing and boating industry, tourism and recreation, and ocean transport, one in six U.S. jobs is marine-related. Coastal and marine waters support over 28 million jobs. U.S. consumers spend over $55 billion annually for fishery products. Then there's travel and tourism. Our beaches are a top destination, attracting about 90 million people a year. Our coastal areas generate 85 percent of all U.S. tourism revenues. And let's not forget about the Great Lakes—these vast bodies of water supply more than 40 million people with drinking water. Our ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes serve other critical needs, too—needs that are harder to measure, but no less important—such as climate regulation, nutrient recycling, and maritime heritage. Last but not least, a healthy ocean and coasts provide us with resources we rely on every day, ranging from food, to medicines, to compounds that make our peanut butter easier to spread! So what does all of this have to do with human health?

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What is a Rossby wave?

This item was filled under [ Basics, Facts, Ocean Observations, Tides and Currents ]


Oceanic and atmospheric Rossby waves — also known as planetary waves — naturally occur largely due to the Earth's rotation. These waves affect the planet's weather and climate. Waves in the ocean come in many different shapes and sizes. Slow-moving oceanic Rossby waves are are fundamentally different from ocean surface waves. Unlike waves that break along the shore, Rossby waves are huge, undulating movements of the ocean that stretch horizontally across the planet for hundreds of kilometers in a westward direction. They are so large and massive that they can change Earth's climate conditions. Along with rising sea levels, King Tides, and the effects of El Niño, oceanic Rossby waves contribute to high tides and coastal flooding in some regions of the world.

About this image: Rossby waves naturally occur in rotating fluids. Within the Earth's ocean and atmosphere, these planetary waves play a significant role in shaping weather. This animation from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center shows both long and short atmospheric waves as indicated by the jet stream. The colors represent the speed of the wind ranging from slowest (light blue colors) to fastest (dark red).

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Why should we care about the ocean?

This item was filled under [ Basics, Facts ]


The world ocean provides so many benefits. Here are ten things the ocean does for humans and the planet:

- The air we breathe: The ocean produces over half of the world's oxygen and absorbs 50 times more carbon dioxide than our atmosphere.
- Climate regulation: Covering 70 percent of the Earth's surface, the ocean transports heat from the equator to the poles, regulating our climate and weather patterns.
- Transportation: Seventy-six percent of all U.S. trade involves some form of marine transportation.
- Recreation: From fishing to boating to kayaking and whale watching, the ocean provides us with many unique activities.
- Economic benefits: The U.S. ocean economy produces $282 billion in goods and services and ocean-dependant businesses employ almost three million people.
- Food: The ocean provides more than just seafood; ingredients from the sea are found in suprising foods such as peanut butter and soymilk.
- Medicine: Many medicinal products come from the ocean, including ingredients that help fight cancer, athritis, Alzheimer's disease, and heart disease.

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What are the Totten Beacons?



In 1513, Spanish explorer Ponce de León sailed into the strong currents of the Florida Straits. Little did he know that within a few years, these uncharted waters, which fed into the Gulf Stream, would become a major international shipping route to and from Europe and the New World.

As Europeans explored and colonized the Americas, they took advantage of the Florida Straits' winds and currents. The winds changed direction often, however, easily pounding countless vessels against miles of treacherous submerged coral reefs off the southern Florida coast.

By 1852, Lieutenant James B. Totten, the U.S. Army's assistant to the Coast Survey, had installed 15 wooden signal poles in the reefs to create more accurate charts of the Florida Keys. Local mariners quickly recognized that the poles themselves helped them safely navigate the reefs, and by 1855, Totten and his team installed a second generation of 16 poles using a more permanent material—iron. The "beacons" each displayed a letter, starting with "A" and ending with "P." Today, remnants of Totten Beacons are protected as historical resources by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS).

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What is a tide gauge?

This item was filled under [ Basics, Facts, Ocean Observations, Tides and Currents ]


A tide gauge, which is one component of a modern water level monitoring station, is fitted with sensors that continuously record the height of the surrounding water level. This data is critical for many coastal activities, including safe navigation, sound engineering, and habitat restoration and preservation.

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What are brain corals?

This item was filled under [ Ecosystems, Facts, Ocean Life ]


The cerebral-looking organisms known as brain corals do not have brains, but they can grow six feet tall and live for up to 900 years! Found in the Caribbean, Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans, brain corals display what is known as Meandroid tissue integration. This means that the polyps, which are the basic living unit of corals, are highly associated to one another. Their tissues are more closely connected than those of other corals and are not separated by skeletal structures. Many researchers think that the more integrated a coral's polyp tissue is, the more advanced the coral species.

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What is a catcher beach?

This item was filled under [ Ecosystems, Facts, Health, Ocean Observations, Tides and Currents ]


Not to be confused with a dumping ground or heavily trashed public beach, a catcher beach typically receives its accumulations of debris due to its shape and location in combination with high-energy waves, storms, or winds. Awareness and common knowledge of these types of areas vary significantly by state, although many states have a good understanding of where catcher beaches are located. In many cases, catcher beaches are found in remote areas that are difficult to access and can be challenging in terms of debris cleanup and removal.

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What is a King Tide?

This item was filled under [ Basics, Facts, Ocean Observations, Tides and Currents ]


A King Tide is a non-scientific term people often use to describe exceptionally high tides. Tides are long-period waves that roll around the planet as the ocean is "pulled" back and forth by the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun as these bodies interact with the Earth in their monthly and yearly orbits. Higher than normal tides typically occur during a new or full moon and when the Earth is at its perigee, or during specific seasons around the country

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What is the difference between local sea level and global sea level?

This item was filled under [ Basics, Facts, Ocean Observations, Tides and Currents ]


Global sea level trends and relative sea level trends are different measurements. Just as the surface of the Earth is not flat, the surface of the ocean is also not flat — in other words, the sea surface is not changing at the same rate at all points around the globe. Sea level rise at specific locations may be more or less than the global average due to many local factors: subsidence, ocean currents, variations in land height, and whether the land is still rebounding from the compressive weight of Ice Age glaciers.

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Where do I get real-time and forecast coastal conditions?

This item was filled under [ Facts, Ocean Observations, Technology, Tides and Currents ]


NOAA's nowCOAST is a GIS-based webmap service that provides frequently updated ocean observations along with coastal and marine weather forecasts 24 hours a day. The free online map offers point-and-click access to 60 NOAA data products and services all in one place. With nowCOAST, you can get a one-stop-shop look at coastal conditions — real-time and forecast — before you do or plan anything on the water.

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