A sea is a large body of salt water that is surrounded in whole or in part by land. More broadly, “the sea” is the interconnected system of Earth’s salty, oceanic waters—considered as one global ocean or as several principal oceanic divisions. The sea moderates Earth’s climate and has important roles in the water cycle, carbon cycle, and nitrogen cycle. Although the sea has been traveled and explored since prehistory, the modern scientific study of the sea—oceanography—dates broadly to the British Challenger expedition of the 1870s. The sea is conventionally divided into up to five large oceanic sections—including the International Hydrographic Organization’s four named oceans (the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and Arctic) and the Southern Ocean; smaller, second-order sections, such as the Mediterranean, are known as seas.
Owing to the present state of continental drift, the Northern Hemisphere is now fairly equally divided between land and sea (a ratio of about 2:3) but the South is overwhelmingly oceanic (1:4.7). Salinity in the open ocean is generally in a narrow band around 3.5% by mass, although this can vary in more landlocked waters, near the mouths of large rivers, or at great depths. About 85% of the solids in the open sea are sodium chloride. Deep-sea currents are produced by differences in salinity and temperature. Surface currents are formed by the friction of waves produced by the wind and by tides, the changes in local sea level produced by the gravity of the Moon and Sun. The direction of all of these is governed by surface and submarine land masses and by the rotation of the Earth (the Coriolis effect).
Former changes in sea levels have left continental shelves, shallow areas in the sea close to land. These nutrient-rich waters teem with life, which provide humans with substantial supplies of food—mainly fish, but also shellfish, mammals, and seaweed—which are both harvested in the wild and farmed. The most diverse areas surround great tropical coral reefs. Whaling in the deep sea was once common but whales’ dwindling numbers prompted international conservation efforts and finally a moratorium on most commercial hunting. Oceanography has established that not all life is restricted to the sunlit surface waters: even under enormous depths and pressures, nutrients streaming from hydrothermal vents support their own unique ecosystem. Life may have started there and aquatic microbial mats are generally credited with the oxygenation of Earth’s atmosphere; both plants and animals first evolved in the sea.
The sea is an essential aspect of human trade, travel, mineral extraction, and power generation. This has also made it essential to warfare and left major cities exposed to earthquakes and volcanoes from nearby faults; powerful tsunami waves; and hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones produced in the tropics. This importance and duality has affected human culture, from early sea gods to the epic poetry of Homer to the changes induced by the Columbian Exchange, from burial at sea to Basho’s haikus to hyperrealist marine art, and inspiring music ranging from the shanties in The Complaynt of Scotland to Rimsky-Korsakov’s “The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship” to A-mei’s “Listen to the Sea”. It is the scene of leisure activities including swimming, diving, surfing, and sailing. However, population growth, industrialization, and intensive farming have all contributed to present-day marine pollution. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is being absorbed in increasing amounts, lowering its pH in a process known as ocean acidification. The shared nature of the sea has made overfishing an increasing problem.
An ocean (from Ancient Greek Ὠκεανός, transc. Okeanós, the sea of classical antiquity) is a body of saline water that composes much of a planet’s hydrosphere. On Earth, an ocean is one of the major conventional divisions of the World Ocean. These are, in descending order by area, the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Southern (Antarctic), and Arctic Oceans. The word sea is often used interchangeably with “ocean” in American English but, strictly speaking, a sea is a body of saline water (generally a division of the world ocean) partly or fully enclosed by land.Saline water covers approximately 360,000,000 km2 (140,000,000 sq mi) and is customarily divided into several principal oceans and smaller seas, with the ocean covering approximately 71% of Earth’s surface and 90% of the Earth’s biosphere. The ocean contains 97% of Earth’s water, and oceanographers have stated that less than 5% of the World Ocean has been explored. The total volume is approximately 1.35 billion cubic kilometers (320 million cu mi) with an average depth of nearly 3,700 meters (12,100 ft).As the world ocean is the principal component of Earth’s hydrosphere, it is integral to life, forms part of the carbon cycle, and influences climate and weather patterns. The world ocean is the habitat of 230,000 known species, but because much of it is unexplored, the number of species that exist in the ocean is much larger, possibly over two million. The origin of Earth’s oceans is unknown; oceans are thought to have formed in the Hadean eon and may have been the impetus for the emergence of life.
Extraterrestrial oceans may be composed of water or other elements and compounds. The only confirmed large stable bodies of extraterrestrial surface liquids are the lakes of Titan, although there is evidence for the existence of oceans elsewhere in the Solar System. Early in their geologic histories, Mars and Venus are theorized to have had large water oceans. The Mars ocean hypothesis suggests that nearly a third of the surface of Mars was once covered by water, and a runaway greenhouse effect may have boiled away the global ocean of Venus. Compounds such as salts and ammonia dissolved in water lower its freezing point so that water might exist in large quantities in extraterrestrial environments as brine or convecting ice. Unconfirmed oceans are speculated beneath the surface of many dwarf planets and natural satellites; notably, the ocean of Europa is estimated to have over twice the water volume of Earth. The Solar System’s giant planets are also thought to have liquid atmospheric layers of yet to be confirmed compositions. Oceans may also exist on exoplanets and exomoons, including surface oceans of liquid water within a circumstellar habitable zone. Ocean planets are a hypothetical type of planet with a surface completely covered with liquid.
A large body of salt water.
The ocean; the continuous body of salt water covering a majority of the Earth’s surface.
A lake, especially if large or if salty or brackish.
“The Caspian Sea, the Sea of Galilee, the Salton Sea, etc.”
The swell of the sea; a single wave; billow.
Living or used in or on the sea; of, near, or like the sea.
“Seaman, sea gauge, sea monster, sea horse, sea level, seaworthy, seaport, seaboard, etc.”
Anything resembling the vastness of the sea.
A large, dark plain of rock; a mare.
“The Apollo 11 mission landed in the Sea of Tranquility.”
A very large lake of liquid hydrocarbon.
One of the large bodies of water separating the continents.
Water belonging to an ocean.
“The island is surrounded by ocean”
An immense expanse; any vast space or quantity without apparent limits.
“the boundless ocean of eternity”
“an ocean of affairs”