Everything you learned about the number of oceans well…forget it. Indeed, the Earth welcomes the newcomer, the Fifth Ocean, or the Southern Ocean that encircles the icy coasts of Antarctica. He did not fall from the sky, or come out of the depths of the planet, but simply came to a conclusion after long discussions in National Geographic.
Announcing World Oceans Day adds the Southern Ocean to the list along with the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian and Arctic oceans. There are many characteristics – including ecology – of the Southern Ocean: it includes most of the waters around Antarctica south of 60°S latitude, with the exception of the Drake Channel and Scotia Sea, which is the only ocean touching the other three (Atlantic, Pacific and Indian) and “embracing” an entire continent rather than being surrounded by it.
South above all is an ocean defined by a current, the strong Antarctic Arctic Current (Acc), with cooler, less salty water. Formed about 34 million years ago when Antarctica separated from South America, the current flows from west to east and not only contributes to the global circulation system, the “Great Conveyor Belt” that carries heat around the planet, but helps store carbon in an abyss, with the effect of Basic to the climate. But in recent decades, scientists have been recording a gradual warming of the stream, which could have an effect on the melting of ice caps and ice shelves with implications for species living around and on the “White Continent”.
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