Geography and History of the World © 2010 Indiana Edition

Chapter 2: The Physical World

"Ocean Color"

Seen from space, Earth is clearly a water planet. Oceans and seas make up about 70 percent of the earth's surface. To better understand our world, the National Air and Space Administration (NASA) observes the earth from space by sending observation satellites into orbit around the planet. One such mission is NASA's Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (Sea WiFS) Project, which scans the oceans from orbit. The satellite provides ocean color data on microscopic marine plants called phytoplankton. This information has both scientific and commercial applications.

Destination Title: SeaWiFS Project: the Wild Blue Wonder

Start at the SeaWiFS Project Web site.
  • Click on The Meaning of Ocean Color at the top of the screen and read the information. Then click on Why is Ocean Color Important? and How is Ocean Color Measured? in the menu on the left of the screen and explore these topics.
  • Click on The Role of Phytoplankton at the top of the screen, and read the information presented. Then click on Why Are Phytoplankton Important? and read this page.
  • Remember to take notes as you navigate these topics.

Using the information gathered from this site, answer the following questions.

Why are the oceans so important to human life? How do the oceans affect weather?
What is the purpose of studying ocean color?
What are phytoplankton? How do they affect ocean color?
What impact does pollution have on phytoplankton and the food chain? What implications does this have for people?
Congress must decide whether to continue funding the SeaWiFS Project. Imagine you represent the commercial fishing industry and are appearing before a congressional committee. On a separate sheet of paper write a summary of your testimony listing the key points supporting the Sea WiFS Project.
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