Influences: chemistry, geology, mathematics, physics, astronomy, ecology, meteorology, climatology, hydrology, paleontology
Oceanography (from the Greek ὠκεανός and γράφω meaning ocean and spelling, respectively), also known as Oceanology or Sea Sciences, is a science in the field of geosciences that is dedicated to the study of oceans and coastal areas in all aspects, since their description physics to the interpretation of the phenomena that occur in them and their interaction with the continents and the atmosphere, as well as with regard to the processes that act in these environments.
Oceanography is divided into five areas, namely: physical oceanography, chemical oceanography, biological oceanography, geological oceanography and social oceanography.
The subareas include paleoceanography, marine biogeochemistry, marine ecotoxicology, among others.
The etymological origin of the name “oceanography” is derived from the Greek Ωκεανογραφία (ocean + spelling), thus characterizing oceanography as the science that describes the oceans, and is believed to have been used for the first time in the French language, in 1584. Currently, the word “oceanology” (λογος – logos – study) is being used in the area, as oceanography not only describes the ocean, but studies it.
The sea has always represented an inexhaustible source of mysteries and challenges for man. Primitive peoples saw it as a universe full of fantastic and monstrous beings, difficult to face and to know. Aristotle, in 380 BC, was the first thinker to study the ocean using a more scientific methodology. However, despite its early beginnings, it took nearly two thousand years for oceanographic science to actually come into being.
Over time, many important information about the origin and behavior of the oceans were studied and disseminated. Theories such as the Ekman spiral that relates the behavior of sea currents to the winds in 1902, the continental drift that explains the separation of continents and the opening of oceans (such as the Atlantic) in 1912 and the improvement of techniques for studying the oceans contributed to the birth of science.
The beginning of oceanography as a science proper takes place in 1872, when CW Thomson and John Murray (oceanographer) made the Challenger expedition (1872-76). It was around this time that several nations concluded that they should invest in the study of the oceans (seeing the ocean as a trade route). Several nations sent expeditions (as well as some individuals and private institutions), and institutes dedicated to the study of oceanography were created.
The two best-known oceanographic institutes in the United States are the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. In Great Britain, a large and new research institution is the Southamptom Oceanography Centre. In Brazil, the oldest and most traditional institution of oceanography is the Oceanographic Institute, of the University of São Paulo. The first undergraduate course in Oceanography in Brazil was implemented in 1971 at the Federal University of Rio Grande Foundation. Currently, there are fourteen undergraduate courses in Oceanography in operation in Brazil.
Oceanography as a multidisciplinary science is divided into four major areas:
It studies physical processes in the oceans and their relationships not only with the atmosphere but also with the lithosphere. Physical oceanography deals with the characteristics of water bodies and researches phenomena such as: marine currents, tides, waves, vortices and others.
It studies the composition of marine environments and the interactions of chemical species with the atmosphere. It also analyzes pollutants in water and sediment, allowing identification of marine pollution.
Study of the interrelationships of living organisms with the environments (marine, coastal and transitional) they inhabit, with an emphasis on ecological relationships. It differs from marine biology in that it studies marine organisms with a more ecological focus, relating them to ocean physics, chemistry and geology.
Also known as “Marine Geology” or “Abiotic Oceanography”, it studies sedimentology, geomorphology, geophysics and marine and coastal morphodynamic processes. It is the part of oceanography that studies the beach strip and its interaction with the sea and the process of marine erosion.