The Oceans A Descriptive Overview

Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.

—Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

WE NOW START TO LOOK AT THE OCEAN(S)1 IN A LITTLE

more detail, albeit in a rather descriptive manner, as a precursor to the more mechanistic or dynamical description, or "explanation," that we try to provide in chapter 4. That is, in this chapter we describe what's going on but with no underlying organizing principle—with no plot, one might say.

There is a sense in which all explanations are really descriptions; what we may think of as an explanation is really a description at a more general level. Nevertheless, the distinction is useful, at least in science: an explanation does not just describe the phenomenon at hand but also provides some more fundamental reason for its properties, and ideally for the properties of a whole class of phenomena. Descriptions are useful because they are the precursor of explanation, and in this chapter our modest goal is to provide a brief descriptive overview of the oceans and their large-scale circulation, focusing on matters that significantly affect climate.

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