The ocean influences weather patterns by distributing heat and moisture around the globe

Hurricane Wilma bears down on Florida

Hurricane Wilma bears down on the Florida Keys.

Covering more than 70 percent of the Earth's surface and containing about 97 percent of its water, the ocean is the Earth’s largest reservoir for moisture. The ocean is also very effective at absorbing and storing heat. These two factors play a big role in how the ocean impacts our weather.

For example, because the ocean releases heat more slowly than land, coastal areas tend to be more temperate. Upwelling in many coastal regions, such as California, provides a cool contrast in air temperature over the ocean and land that is conducive to frequent summer fog. Also, high-pressure areas can form where the air is being heated by the sun (from the above) and by the ocean (from below), which makes winds stronger.

Warm water is also evaporated from the ocean into the atmosphere, where it can condense and form clouds, which can eventually lead to rain. Tropical storms form over warm ocean waters, which supply the energy for hurricanes and typhoons to grow and move, often over land. The winter storms that bring precipitation to the western U.S. originate over the North Pacific.

The vast heat storage ability of the ocean also helps to regulate climate.

More Ocean and Seafloor Facts