We have a new ocean, everybody

·2 min read

There's a new ocean, according to National Geographic.

Abutting the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans, and opposite the Arctic Ocean, the newly recognized Southern Ocean is a distinct ring of cold water circling Antarctica.

It's not a case of ocean inflation. Geographers aren't handing out "ocean" titles to every body of water. The Southern Ocean seems to have earned its distinction.

“Scientists have known for many years that the icy waters around Antarctica form a distinct ecological region defined by ocean currents and temperatures,” National Geographic Geographer Alex Tait tweeted through the magazine's account.

While nearly all countries agreed that the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and Arctic oceans represented different environments in earth’s interconnected waters, the International Hydrographic Organization, the international community’s authority on nautical mapping, was split on whether the Antarctic waters deserved their own name.

National Geographic considered the change for years, but this announcement is the “last step” in the process of recognizing the ocean, Tait said.

“Anyone who has been there will struggle to explain what's so mesmerizing about it, but they'll all agree that the glaciers are bluer, the air colder, the mountains more intimidating, and the landscapes more captivating than anywhere else you can go,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration marine scientist Seth Sykora-Bodie said.

The Southern Ocean’s water circulation and surface currents are different from the surrounding aquatic regions, according to National Geographic.

This difference is largely due to the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, which fences in the cold Antarctic waters of the Southern Ocean from the warmer Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans that it borders.

The cold temperature allows the ocean to act as the home of large populations of krill, a crustacean that is to humpback whales what pizza or hamburgers are to Americans.

In February, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recognized the new ocean as distinct, and the U.S. Board on Geographic Names started using the name in 1999.

The most palpable impact of this newest announcement will be in education, Tait said.

Elementary school children will need to learn the names of five oceans instead of four. That's fine, since the solar system these days has only eight planets.

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Tags: Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Science

Original Author: Charles Hilu

Original Location: We have a new ocean, everybody

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