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How Ocean Currents Affect Global Climate Becoming Better Understood

Florida State University oceanographer Kevin Speer has a "new paradigm" for describing how the world's oceans circulate -- and with it he may help reshape science's understanding of the processes by which wind, water, sunlight and other factors interact and influence the planet's climate.

A Florida State University professor of oceanography with a passion for teaching, Speer and a colleague recently published a significant paper in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Working with John Marshall, an oceanography professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Speer reviewed -- or essentially synthesized -- vast amounts of previous data on ocean circulation (including their own earlier papers). As a result, they have created what Speer calls a new paradigm in the study of ocean currents on a global scale.

Here's how it works: Basically, the oceans, together with the atmosphere, rebalance heat on the planet. The sun shines on Earth and heats up the tropics more than the poles. Near the poles, the ocean is cold and the water sinks; near the equator, the surface of the ocean is inviting and warm -- and floats on top of the colder deep water.

So the question is this: Where does the water that goes down come back up?

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