Water And Oceanography

The Basic Properties of Water



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The fact that most of the Earth's surface is covered in liquid water has resulted in the favorable conditions allowing life on Earth. Waters unusually high freezing and boiling points and its stability as a molecule have all contributed to life on Earth. Water also has several other remarkable properties that contribute to the characteristics of our oceans. These include the ability of the ocean to support a huge variety of life and the ocean's effects on the climate.

The Water Molecule

A water molecule is made up of two hydrogen atoms that are bound to one oxygen atom. Four negatively charged particles called electrons are crucial to the bond formation between hydrogen and oxygen. There are also sick other electron which move around within the different regions of the water molecule. The arrangement of electrons gives water its chemical stability and also creates a tiny electrical charge within the molecule which is what produces the effect of drawing neighboring water molecules together.

Surface Tension

Surface tension is a special property of liquid water that is attributed to the electrical attractiveness of neighboring molecules. In any group of water molecules the ones on the surface are together and in toward the center which creates a kind of "skin" that is resistant to any sort of disruption. This ability of water has several very important effects. Water that is transported through the body, and through plants is kept in droplets, which would not be possible without surface tension. Surface tension also plays a role in wave formation and allows insects to walk on the surface on water without breaking the "skin".

Three States of Water

Water comes in three different states, ice, liquid water and water vapor. The temperatures at which water changes from one state to another, the melting point (ice to liquid water) and the boiling point (liquid water into water vapor), are high when compared to other substances that have molecules of about the same size. Also unusual for water is the fact that in its solid form water is slightly dense than it is in its liquid form, resulting in ice that floats. This is very important because it allows for the polar sea ice, which helps to stabilize Earth's climate.

Heat Capacity

Water has a very high heat capacity which means that the water is warmed much more slowly by the sun than the Earth's surface. This can be attributed to the hydrogen bonds because most heat that is applied to water is used to break those bonds and does not create much vibration among the molecules which is detected as a rise in temperature. This means that the Earth's oceans can absorb a significant amount of heat energy without rising in temperature very much. The Earth's oceans also move a significant amount of heat energy around the world via the ocean currents. This action is vital to the way Earth's climates operate.

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