For the first time since the beginning of producing maps more than a century ago, the National Geographic Society said it would recognize the Southern Ocean as the world’s fifth ocean.
Nonprofit has previously recognized four oceans: Atlantic, Pacific, Indian and Arctic.
The Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica has long been recognized by scientists, but the community’s geographer Alex Tait said in an article announcing the decision that the National Geographic Society had never officially recognized it because there was never an international agreement.
“I am excited that we are taking the step to officially recognize the Southern Ocean as the world̵
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According to the article, cartographers had discussed whether the water was only an extension of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans.
Does the cool lack of sufficient defining features to make it an official sea?
National Geographic says the Southern Ocean is defined by an approximately 34 million-year-old current called the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC).
The waters inside the ACC, which flow from west to east, are reportedly colder and less salty than the northern seawater.
The ACC also transports more water than any other ocean current, draws water in from the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, and activates a global circulation system known as the “conveyor belt.”
The constantly moving system of deep-sea circulation transports heat around the world according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
In addition, National Geographic noted that cold and dense water that falls to the Antarctic ocean floor helps store carbon – a factor in the climate – and that water moving through the ACC is heated.
“We chose to update our map policy to identify the Southern Ocean primarily because of its distinct ecological characteristics. This includes the circumpolar currents and winds that isolate Antarctica, temperature and salinity gradients, and the region’s consequent impact on Earth’s climate,” Tait said. , noting that awareness of the oceans is an “important part of geography education.”
Another factor to the message is the “ecologically distinct” environment of the ocean with unique marine ecosystems that are currently threatened by 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 Earth’s fifth ocean, it will raise awareness of the unique protection that is urgently needed in this region. This includes, but is not limited to, its unique and fragile marine ecosystems that are home to magnificent marine life such as whales, penguins, seals and fish species, “Tait. “As climate change changes, we need to provide protected areas in all regions of the ocean, including the Southern Ocean.”
Seas consisting of salt water cover more than 70% of the earth, and an estimated 97% of the planet’s water is found in the ocean.
To date, more than 80% of the world’s oceans have never been mapped or explored.
While the National Geographic Society has been updating its maps for decades, major revisions are unusual, and in general, the maps follow the International Hydrographic Organization’s (IHO) guidance on marine names.
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While the IHO – working with the United Nations Expert Group on Geographical Names – recognized the Southern Ocean in 1937, it reversed its course in 1953.
Conversely, the U.S. Geographic Names Board has used the name since 1999.
In February, NOAA also recognized the Southern Ocean.