Ocean Currents Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Michelle Vannoy
In this lesson, learn and discuss the types of currents in the ocean. Examine the directions that the currents move. Learn how the currents and their movements effect weather.

The Movement of the Ocean

One of my favorite places to go on vacation is the beach. It might be your favorite too! It's amazing to lay on the sand on a warm sunny day and listen to the sound of the ocean and watch the waves form way out in the water and come crashing on the shore with their white foam. Do you ever wonder why the waves form and move? Ever wonder if it's the same water coming in each time or different water? Well, let's find out!

What are Ocean Currents?

Waves form and move due to ocean currents. An ocean current is the horizontal movement of seawater. There are two main categories of ocean currents: surface currents and deep water currents.

Surface Currents

Surface currents are currents that are found on the surface of the ocean water, usually found in the upper 1,300 ft. of water. The waves that you see crash into the shore at the beach are surface currents. They make up a small amount of the currents in the ocean. These types of currents are caused by the wind blowing across the surface of the water. When the air rubs across the water there is friction. The friction transfers energy into the water and forms the wave.

Think about rubbing your hands together really fast, they become warm. The friction from rubbing your hands caused the heat. Heat is a form of energy. Friction gives off energy. That's the same concept with air and the water forming a wave. The wave is the energy formed from the friction.

Deep Water Currents

Deep water currents are currents typically found below 1,300 ft. in the ocean. The main causes for deep water currents are changes in water temperatures, the amount of salt in the water (this is called salinity), the density of the water, and the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun. The gravitational pull of the moon and sun are also what causes tides in the ocean.

Deep water currents typically move in circular patterns within a certain area. That circular pattern is caused by the Earth's rotation and will cause the currents to move clockwise in the northern hemisphere and counter-clockwise in the southern hemisphere. This is called the Coriolis effect.

Major ocean currents and their paths
Major Ocean Currents

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