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Ocean and climate

Ocean and climate activity hero image

This activity will help you understand that the ocean is not like a swimming pool where water is stationary, but more like a river with deep currents. These currents have a huge effect on global climate and the movement of water in the Arctic Ocean acts as a pump driving the system of ocean circulation.

Ages 7+

(adult supervision)

20 minutes

Ocean circulation relies on different densities of water falling and rising. The density of water is affected by salinity (the amount of dissolved salt) and temperature. With this activity, you can predict and observe how different types of water behave.

Activity preparation

To prepare for this activity, you will need to prepare four different types of water for students to work with.

Ocean water

  • Create one litre of ocean water per group by dissolving 32 grams of salt per litre of tap water.

Gulf Stream seawater (red)

  • Create 25 ml of warm Gulf Stream seawater per group with red dye and keep this in a thermos.
  • The Gulf Stream seawater will need 32 grams of dissolved salt per litre.

Arctic seawater (blue)

  • Create 25 ml of Arctic seawater per group with blue dye and keep this in the fridge.
  • The Arctic sea water will need 64 grams of dissolved salt per litre.

Iceberg (green)

  • Create on ice cube with green dye and kept in the freezer.
  • Add no salt.
Activity steps
  1. Fill three large glasses with a third of the ocean water each.
  2. These represent the Arctic Ocean. The system of ocean circulation relies on cold, salty water sinking in the Arctic Ocean.

Gulf Stream seawater

  1. Take the red-dyed Gulf Stream seawater.
  2. The Gulf Stream is an ocean current that carries warm water from the Caribbean towards the coast of north western Europe.
  3. Predict how you think the Gulf Stream seawater will behave. Why?
  4. Gently, add the Gulf Stream seawater using a small spoon or pipette.
  5. Did the Gulf Stream seawater behave in the way you predicted?

Arctic Ocean seawater

  1. Take the blue-dyed Arctic Ocean seawater.
  2. The surface water in the Arctic is both cold and salty. The additional saltiness is caused by the formation of sea ice. This is because when salt water freezes it exudes salt into the surface waters of the Arctic Ocean.
  3. How do you think the Arctic Ocean seawater will behave? Why?
  4. Gently, add the Arctic Ocean seawater using a small spoon or pipette.
  5. Did the Arctic Ocean seawater behave in the way you predicted?

Iceberg

  1. Take the green-dyed iceberg.
  2. Icebergs are formed when land-based ice, such as glaciers and ice sheets, breaks off into the ocean.
  3. How you think meltwater from the iceberg will behave? Why?
  4. Place the iceberg gently on top of the mini Arctic Ocean.
  5. Did the iceberg behave in the way you predicted?
Safety guidance
  • Do not drink dyed water
  • Report any spills to an adult

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