Physical oceanography is the scientific study of the physical conditions and processes that occur in the ocean, including motion and properties of water. It is one of the four subdivisions of oceanography, with the others being biological, chemical, and geological oceanography.
Almost all of the planet’s water, some 97%, is contained in the oceans. They are far deeper than the continents are high, extending as much as 11,000 meters below the surface at their deepest point. The oceans are responsible for generating most of the water vapor that eventually falls as rain or snow, as well as playing a vital role in moderating the Earth’s climate.
Physical oceanography studies the various ocean currents, including the Antarctic circumpolar, the Gulf Stream, and the East Australia Current, as well as the deep ocean convection. The Hadley circulation, driven by solar heating, is responsible to atmospheric circulation.
There are also rapid changes in the ocean that physical oceanography seeks to explain. Examples of these phenomena include the tides, surface waves, and tsunamis. Tides are produced by the gravitation of the sun and moon on the earth. While wind generates surface waves. Tsunamis are caused by large-scale displacement of ocean water, frequently resulting from an earthquake on the ocean floor. The largest tsunami ever recorded occurred in 1958, with waves 1710 feet high.