what percent of the earth is covered in salt water oceans
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Our oceans are under attack by climate change, overfishing
The ocean is a continuous body of salt water that covers more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface. Ocean currents govern the world’s weather and churn a kaleidoscope of life. Humans depend on these teeming waters for comfort and survival, but global warming and overfishing threaten Earth’s largest habitat.
Geographers divide the ocean into five major basins: the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Arctic, and Southern. Smaller ocean regions such as the Mediterranean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and the Bay of Bengal are called seas, gulfs, and bays. Inland bodies of saltwater such as the Caspian Sea and the Great Salt Lake are distinct from the world’s oceans.
The oceans hold about 321 million cubic miles (1.34 billion cubic kilometers) of water, which is roughly 97 percent of Earth’s water supply. Seawater’s weight is about 3.5 percent dissolved salt; oceans are also rich in chlorine, magnesium, and calcium. The oceans absorb the sun’s heat, transferring it to the atmosphere and distributing it around the world. This conveyor belt of heat drives global weather patterns and helps regulate temperatures on land, acting as a heater in the winter and an air conditioner in the summer.
The oceans are home to millions of Earth’s plants and animals—from tiny single-celled organisms to the gargantuan blue whale, the planet’s largest living animal. Fish, octopuses, squid, eels, dolphins, and whales swim the open waters while crabs, octopuses, starfish, oysters, and snails crawl and scoot along the ocean bottom.
Life in the ocean depends on phytoplankton, mostly microscopic organisms that float at the surface and, through photosynthesis, produce about half of the world’s oxygen. Other fodder for sea dwellers includes seaweed and kelp, which are types of algae, and seagrasses, which grow in shallower areas where they can catch sunlight.
The deepest reaches of the ocean
The deepest reaches of the ocean were once thought to be devoid of life, since no light penetrates beyond 1,000 meters (3,300 feet). But then hydrothermal vents were discovered. These chimney-like structures allow tube worms, clams, mussels, and other organisms to survive not via photosynthesis but chemosynthesis, in which microbes convert chemicals released by the vents into energy. Bizarre fish with sensitive eyes, translucent flesh, and bioluminescent lures jutting from their heads lurk about in nearby waters, often surviving by eating bits of organic waste and flesh that rain down from above, or on the animals that feed on those bits.
Despite regular discoveries about the ocean and its denizens, much remains unknown. More than 80 percent of the ocean is unmapped and unexplored, which leaves open the question of how many species there are yet to be discovered. At the same time, the ocean hosts some of the world’s oldest creatures: Jellyfish have been around more than half a billion years, horseshoe crabs almost as long.
Other long-lived species are in crisis. The tiny, soft-bodied organisms known as coral, which form reefs mostly found in shallow tropical waters, are threatened by pollution, sedimentation, and global warming. Researchers are seeking ways to preserve fragile, ailing ecosystems such as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
Climate change, the term scientists now use to describe global warming and other trends currently affecting the planet because of high greenhouse gas emissions from humans, is strikingly reflected in the oceans.
The year 2018 marked the oceans’ hottest year on record,
and warmer waters lead to a range of consequences, from changing colors to rising sea levels to more frequent powerful storms.
The greenhouse gas carbon dioxide
The greenhouse gas carbon dioxide is also turning ocean waters acidic,
and an influx of freshwater from melting glaciers threatens to alter the weather-driving currents:
the Atlantic Ocean’s currents have slowed by about 15 percent over the past few decades.
A community of scientists, explorers, and citizen scientists continues to study the ocean, hoping that more information will yield more paths for conservation.
while new tools are helping scientists measure and understand what they find. Read more about ocean threats and solutions here.
Water distribution on Earth
Most water in Earth’s atmosphere and crust comes from saline seawater, while fresh water accounts for nearly 1% of the total.
The vast bulk of the water on Earth is saline or salt water, with an average salinity of 35‰ (or 4.5%, roughly equivalent to 34 grams of salts in 1 kg of seawater), though this varies slightly according to the amount of runoff received from surrounding land.
In all, water from oceans and marginal seas, saline groundwater and water from saline closed lakes amount to over 97% of the water on Earth, though no closed lake stores a globally significant amount of water.
The remainder of Earth’s water constitutes the planet’s fresh water resource.
How much water is in the ocean?
Less than one percent of all the water on Earth is fresh. A tiny fraction of water exists as water vapor in our atmosphere.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, there are over 332,519,000 cubic miles of water on the planet. A cubic mile is the volume of a cube measuring one mile on each side. Of this vast volume of water, NOAA’s National Geophysical Data Center estimates that 321,003,271 cubic miles is in the ocean.
Thermophysical properties of seawater
The density of surface seawater ranges from about 1020 to 1029 kg/m3, depending on the temperature and salinity. At a temperature of 25 °C, salinity of 35 g/kg and 1 atm pressure,
the density of seawater is 1023.6 kg/m3. Deep in the ocean, under high pressure, seawater can reach a density of 1050 kg/m3 or higher.
The density of seawater
The density of seawater also changes with salinity. Brines generated by seawater desalination plants can have salinities up to 120 g/kg. The density of typical seawater brine of 120 g/kg salinity at 25 °C and atmospheric pressure is 1088 kg/m3. Seawater pH is limited to the range 7.5 to 8.4. The speed of sound in seawater is about 1,500 m/s (whereas speed of sound is usually around 330 m/s in air at roughly 101.3kPa pressure, 1 atmosphere), and varies with water temperature, salinity, and pressure. The thermal conductivity of seawater is 0.6 W/mK at 25 °C and a salinity of 35 g/kg. The thermal conductivity decreases with increasing salinity and increases with increasing temperature.
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