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Terms you will need to know for the Oceanography test.


The shallow zone of the ocean where land meets water, which is alternately covered or exposed by the tied


Benthic zone from the low-tide line to the seaward edge of the continental shelf; the subtidal zone.


Pertaining to ocean depths between approximately 1000 and 4000 meters.


benthic environment between 4000 m and 6000 m depth


of or pertaining to the greatest ocean depths, below approximately 20,000 ft.


the aggregate of small plant and animal organisms that float or drift in great numbers in fresh or salt water


the aggregate of actively swimming animals in a body of water ranging from microscopic organisms to whales


organisms (plants and animals) that live at or near the bottom of a sea

Abyssal Hill

A hill on the slope of a mid-ocean ridge about 100m high and lineated parallel to the ridge crest, formed by faulting of the basaltic oceanic crust as it moves out of the rift valley

Abyssal Plain

very level area of the deep-ocean floor, usually lying at the foot of the continental rise

Mid-Ocean Ridge

an undersea mountain chain where new ocean floor is produced; a divergent plate boundary

Rift Valley

A deep valley that forms where two plates move apart.

Ocean Trench

A steep, long depression in the deep-sea floor that runs parallel to a chain of volcanic islands or a continental margin

Continental Slope

the steep gradient that leads to the deep-ocean floor and marks the seaward edge of the continental shelf

Continental Shelf

a gently sloping, shallow area of the ocean floor that extends outward from the edge of a continent

Continental Rise

the gently sloping section of the continental margin located between the continental slope and the abyssal plain


A large, flat-topped seamount resulting from erosion of an island volcano when it was above sea level.


a huge, underwater volcanic mountain that may emerge from the ocean surface as an island


an island consisting of a circular coral reef surrounding a lagoon

Sea Cliff

Steep slope produced when waves erode and undercut rock.

Sea Cave

formed as wave action hollows out the cliff

Sea Arch

Formed when sea caves on either side of a headland join.

Sea Stack

column of rock remaining after the collapse of a sea arch

Wave-Cut Terrace

A level surface formed by wave erosion of coastal bedrock beneath the surf zone. May be visible at low tide.

Wave-Built Terrace

An extension to a wave-cut terrace formed by erosional material deposited offshore


an area of sand sloping down to the water of a sea or lake


a narrow ledge or shelf typically at the top or bottom of a slope

Coral Reefs

Prominent oceanic features composed of hard, limy skeletons produced by coral animals; usually formed along edges of shallow, submerged ocean banks or along shelves in warm, shallow, tropical seas

Barrier Island

Low, narrow, sand islands that form offshore from a coastline

Sand Bar

A long underwater ridge formed by sand deposited offshore

Submergent Coastline

A landform formed when sea level rises or when land sinks

Emergent Coastline

Coastline that results from either a drop of sea level or an uplifting of the land


shallow body of water or lake near a sea; lake separated from a sea by sandbars or coral reefs


a narrow strip of land that juts out into the sea


a ridge of sand that connects an island to the mainland or to another island


mass divided by volume


the degree of hotness or coldness of a body or environment (corresponding to its molecular activity)


In water, a distinctive temperature transition zone that separates an upper layer that is mixed by wind (the epilimnion) and a colder, deep layer that is not mixed (the hypolimnion)


a measure of the amount of dissolved salts and other solids in a given amount of liquid


A giant wave caused by an earthquake on the ocean floor


water that moves in a certain direction; the river like flow of water in the oceans

El Nino

(oceanography) a warm ocean current that flows along the equator from the date line and south off the coast of Ecuador at Christmas time

La Nina

a cooling of the ocean surface off the western coast of South America, occurring periodically every 4 to 12 years and affecting Pacific and other weather patterns.


a measuring instrument that sends out an acoustic pulse in water and measures distances in terms of the time for the echo of the pulse to return

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