The Ocean Circulation

This is a court of law, not a court of justice.

—Oliver Wendell Holmes

The climate in general and the oceans in particular are complicated systems, and if one is not careful it is easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees. For that reason, a useful philosophy is to begin with an austere picture of the phenomenon at hand and then gradually add layers of complexity and detail. The first picture will be a simplification, but if it is based on sound scientific principles, then it will provide a solid foundation for what follows, and it will become possible to work toward an understanding of the system as it really is. In this chapter we apply this philosophy to try to understand the ocean circulation. We won't seek a full understanding of the real system; rather, we will construct a physical and mathematical representation of it, a model based on the same laws of physics that are satisfied by the real ocean.

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