National Geographic recognizes Southern Ocean as fifth ocean

For the primary time since starting to make maps greater than a century in the past, the National Geographic Society mentioned it might acknowledge the Southern Ocean as the world’s fifth ocean

The nonprofit has beforehand acknowledged 4 oceans: the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian and Arctic. 

The Southern Ocean, which surrounds Antarctica, has lengthy been acknowledged by scientists, however the society’s geographer Alex Tait said in an article announcing the decision that as a result of there was by no means a world consensus, the National Geographic Society had by no means formally acknowledged it.

“I am excited we are taking the step to officially recognize the Southern Ocean as the world’s fifth ocean,” Tait mentioned in an electronic mail to Fox News on Thursday. “There is, of course, one interconnected world ocean but it does have regions. Traditionally there have been four regions but the waters around Antarctica form a fifth unique area.”


According to the article, cartographers had deliberated over whether or not the waters had been merely extensions of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans. 

Did the frigid physique of need have sufficient defining options to make it an official ocean? 

National Geographic says that the Southern Ocean is outlined by an roughly 34-million-year-old present known as the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC). 

The waters contained in the ACC, which flows from west to east, are reportedly colder and less salty than northern ocean waters.

The ACC additionally transports extra water than another ocean present, drawing in waters from the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans and energizing a worldwide circulation system recognized as the “conveyor belt.” 

The continuously transferring system of deep-ocean circulation transports warmth all over the world, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

In addition, National Geographic famous that chilly and dense water that drops to Antarctica’s ocean flooring helps to retailer carbon – a consider climate – and that water transferring by way of the ACC is warming. 

“We chose to update our Map Policy to identify the Southern Ocean primarily due to its distinct ecological characteristics. This includes the circumpolar currents and winds that isolate Antarctica, the temperature and salinity gradients, and the area’s resulting influence on Earth’s climate,” Tait mentioned, noting that bringing consideration to the oceans is an “important part of geography education.”

Another issue to the announcement is the ocean’s “ecologically distinct” setting, with unique marine ecosystems at present beneath the specter of industrial fishing.

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

“We hope that by recognizing the Southern Ocean as the earth’s fifth ocean will draw attention to the unique protections 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 changes we need to provide protected areas in all the ocean’s regions, including the Southern Ocean.”

ANTARCTICA, FEBRUARY 2016: Stunning icebergs the dimensions of small nations threaten to break down, taken in February 2016, Antarctica. (Credit: Freedive Antarctica / Barcroft M / Barcroft Media through Getty Images)

Oceans, comprised of saltwater, cover more than 70% of Earth and an estimated 97% of the planet’s water is discovered within the ocean.

To date, greater than 80% of the world’s ocean has by no means been mapped or explored.

While the National Geographic Society has been updating its maps for many years, massive revisions are unusual and, typically, the maps comply with the International Hydrographic Organization’s (IHO) steerage on marine names.


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

Conversely, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names has used the identify since 1999. 

In February, NOAA officially recognized the Southern Ocean as nicely.

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