Courtesy of NOAA

What is Oceanography?

Almost all fields of science come together to study the marine environment. However, four fields of oceanography have been established:
  1. Physical - This is the study of physical characteristics including water movement, oceanic/atmospheric interaction, and seawater properties. Dynamics involve water movement horizontally and vertically.
  2. Chemical - The evolution and composition of seawater, its dynamic influences on animal and plant life, and the human impact on the chemical environment are studied in this field.
  3. Biological - Studies range from marshes and estuaries in the coastal zones to deep mid-ocean benthic regions. These biologists are concerned with the organisms' species, life cycles, involvement in food chains, and response to environment. Organisms at great depth are mainly studied by photography due to their unique pressure-sensitivity.
  4. Marine Geology/Geophysical - Sediments and rock mainly concern these scientists. This includes study of the earth's crust, including structure and physical properties, fossil shells, currents that move sediments, and mineral deposits.
Modern fields include ocean engineering and marine policy:
  1. Engineering - These scientists design ways to exploit and explore the whole range of the ocean from the bottom to the atmosphere. The ocean's corrosive and high-pressure nature, as well as strong surface winds and currents require prototype designs and cutting edge technologies.
  2. Marine Policy - This involves the application of social sciences regarding mineral resources, pollution, law of the sea, coastal zoning. As problems and questions arise concerning the ocean's use, policy makers will be utilized.
Scripps Institute Woods Hole GLOBE
Created by Robin L. Wood
Last updated: 13 April 1999