Oceans are the real powerhouse of the planet's surface behavior. Indeed, meteorologists increasingly treat oceans and atmosphere as a single system, which is why we must give them a little of our attention here. Water is marvelous at holding and transporting heat. Every day, the Gulf Stream carries an amount of heat to Europe equivalent to the world's output of coal for ten years, which is why Britain and Ireland have such mild winters compared with Canada and Russia.
The oceans are not one uniform mass of water. Their differences in temperature, salinity, depth, density, and so on have huge effects on how they move heat around, which in turn affects climate. The Atlantic, for instance, is saltier than the Pacific, and a good thing too. The saltier water is the denser it is, and dense water sinks. Without its extra burden of salt, the Atlantic currents would proceed up to the Arctic, warming the North Pole but depriving Europe of all that kindly warmth. The main agent of heat transfer on Earth is what is known as thermohaline circulation, which originates in slow, deep currents far below the surface—a process first detected by the scientist-adventurer Count von Rumford in 1797.