June 18, 2021

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National Geographic recognizes the Southern Ocean as the fifth ocean

National Geographic recognizes the Southern Ocean as the fifth ocean

For the first time since map making began over a century ago, the National Geographic Society has said it will recognize the Southern Ocean as fifth in the world ocean.

The association has already recognized four oceans: the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Indian and the Arctic.

The Southern Ocean, which surrounds Antarctica, has long been recognized by scientists, but company geographer Alex Tait said in an article announcing the decision that because there had never been an international consensus, the National Geographic Society had never officially recognized it.

“I am delighted that we are taking the step to officially recognize the Southern Ocean as the fifth ocean in the world,” Tait said in an email to Fox News Thursday. “There is, of course, an interconnected global ocean, but it has regions. Traditionally, there have been four regions, but the waters around Antarctica form a single fifth zone.”


According to the article, cartographers wondered if the waters were just extensions of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

Did the icy body of need have enough defining characteristics to make it an official ocean?

National Geographic says the Southern Ocean is defined by a current about 34 million years old called the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC).

The waters inside the ACC, which flows from west to east, would be colder and less salty than the northern ocean waters.

ACC also carries more water than any other ocean current, drawing from the waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans and activating a global circulation system known as a “conveyor belt”.

The constantly moving underwater circulation system transports heat around the world, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

In addition, National Geographic noted that the cold, dense water that falls to the bottom of the Antarctic Ocean helps store carbon – a factor of weather – and that the water circulating in the ACC warms up.

“We have chosen to update our mapping policy to identify the Southern Ocean primarily because of its distinct ecological features. This includes the circumpolar currents and winds that isolate Antarctica, temperature and salinity gradients, and l ‘resulting influence of the region on Earth’s climate,’ Tait said. , noting that drawing attention to the oceans is an “important part of teaching geography”.

Another factor in the announcement is the “ecologically distinct” environment of the ocean, with unique marine ecosystems currently under threat from industrial fishing.

“By drawing attention to the Southern Ocean, the National Geographic Society hopes to promote its conservation,” the publication said.

“We hope that by recognizing the Southern Ocean as the fifth ocean on the planet, we will draw attention to the unique protections this region urgently needs. This includes, but is not limited to, its unique and fragile marine ecosystems which are home to magnificent marine life such as whales. , penguins, seals and fish species, “Tait.” As the climate changes, we must provide protected areas in all regions of the ocean, including the Southern Ocean. “

National Geographic recognizes the Southern Ocean as the fifth ocean

ANTARCTICA, FEBRUARY 2016: Stunning icebergs the size of small countries threaten to collapse, taken in February 2016, Antarctica. (Credit: Freedive Antarctica / Barcroft M / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

The oceans, composed of salt water, cover more than 70% of the Earth And one estimated at 97% of the planet’s water is in the ocean.

To date, over 80% of the world’s ocean has never been mapped or explored.

While the National Geographic Society has been updating its maps for decades, significant revisions are rare and, in general, maps follow the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) guidelines for marine names.


While the IHO – which works with the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names – recognized the Southern Ocean in 1937, he reversed the course in 1953.

Conversely, the US Board on Geographic Names has used the name since 1999.

In February, NOAA officially recognized the Southern Ocean too.

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