Published On: Wed, Jun 9th, 2021

The World Has a New Ocean – The Southern Ocean

National Geographic announced a fifth ocean.

Remember how when you were in grade school you learned basic world geography and how the world has only four oceans: The Atlantic. Pacific, Indian and Artic. Well get ready for a big change as the world now has a fifth ocean – The Southern Ocean.

The announcement came on World Oceans Day.

National Geographic magazine can take credit for its mapping and new designation as an ocean. The Southern Ocean wraps around Antarctica. Perhaps, then, it should have been called the Antarctic Ocean instead.

The new ocean is getting this classification because scientists were able to determine that its waters are unique, distinct from those of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans which it borders. This has to do with its current. The current keeps the Southern Ocean’s waters colder and less salty than their northern neighbors.

Have you ever wondered why the Indian Ocean is designated as its own ocean? T borders the Pacific Ocean to its east and nothing separates the two. But the Indian Ocean has a separate current of its own and its waters differ from those of the Pacific. So it constitutes an Ocean where other distinct bodies of water are just bays or gulfs.

“The Southern Ocean has long been recognized by scientists, but because there was never agreement internationally, we never officially recognized it,” says National Geographic Society Geographer Alex Tait.

“It’s sort of geographic nerdiness in some ways,” Tait says. He and the National Geographic Society’s map policy committee had been considering the change for years, watching as scientists and the press increasingly used the term Southern Ocean.

“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,” says Seth Sykora-Bodie, a marine scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and a National Geographic Explorer.

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