Research on the Web: Going Deep Under the Sea

Part of the Deep Sea Vents Curriculum Collection.

Investigate how global ocean circulation works and how it affects temperatures in the deep ocean. You’ll get a feel for just how deep the oceans are, and you’ll also research the latest tools and technologies used by scientists to explore the deep sea.

To conduct your investigation, work as scientists do—predict what you may discover, make observations, and record what you see. Look for patterns and investigate why and how these patterns occur.

You’ll start your investigation with a look at global ocean circulation, the dynamic movement of water across the globe and its movement from the ocean’s surface to its deepest depths. First take a look at global ocean temperatures obtained by remote sensing satellites; observe how the temperatures vary across the globe, and at how the temperature patterns vary over the course of a year. Bring your journal to the computer and go to:

Start by looking at sea surface temperatures to get a feel for how temperatures vary across the globe; use “Questions to Guide Your Study” to structure your investigation. Next, create a visualization of temperatures changes throughout the year; the visualization (one of the benefits of conducting research on the Web!) will help you picture seasonal changes in global ocean surface temperatures. You can pick a range of dates to examine. Investigate how ocean temperatures changed, using “Questions to Guide Your Study” to structure your investigation.

Next, investigate how ocean temperatures across the globe are regulated by global ocean circulation. To discover what global ocean circulation is and how it works, go to:

If you want to find out more about how global ocean circulation is related to global climate change, check out the following sites:

So now you know a bit about how cold it is down at the vents, but how far do you have to go down to get there? To find out, visit the American Museum of Natural History’s Web site to explore the interactive “How Deep Is Deep?”

Follow the directions on the interactive; use “Questions to Guide Your Study” to guide your investigation, and record your responses in your journal (or a separate sheet, as your teacher requests).

Is it possible that scientists can travel that deep? It wasn’t possible—until less than 50 years ago! Scientists and engineers had to develop the technology to explore the deepest parts of the ocean before they could get there to see it! Take a few moments to check out the following Web sites; there you’ll be able to examine the latest technology being used by the international research community to explore the deep oceans. Record your observations, using “Questions to Guide Your Study” to focus your notes.

Questions to Guide Your Study

If you’re working with a team, discuss your observations with your teammates; just make sure to record in your own journal your observations about global ocean circulation and the other discoveries you’ve made about exploring the deepest depths of the sea.

  • How does the surface temperature of the ocean vary across the globe?
  • Investigate the connection between temperature patterns and the month or time of year. What causes the general pattern of temperatures to change throughout the year?
  • Ocean temperatures vary across the globe; how are those variations both a cause and an effect of global ocean circulation?
  • How deep is deep? Explain how deep down you’d have to go to get to a hydrothermal vent, using the comparison of some of the structures in “How Deep Is Deep?” What did you discover by using this interactive? Did your discoveries surprise you?
  • What technologies do scientists use to research the deep sea? Under what circumstances might chose one technology over another? In other words, what are some of the advantages and disadvantages of each technological tools?