Finally, the planet earth has successfully managed to obtain the popular recognition of the fifth ocean. This water body was located and named by the National Geographic Society. This fifth ocean was named the Southern Ocean that is situated around Antarctica. This significant ocean is recognized as the fifth addition to the existing four including the Atlantic, the Indian, the Arctic, and the Pacific.
The designation of this frigid water body lies around the icy southern continent and has been categorized as a separate ocean almost one hundred years ago. The Southern Ocean has also been widely used by scientists for various purposes but until very recently, it had not been able to gain popular backing.
8th June is celebrated as World Oceans Day. On this day the society made the important announcement of labeling this fifth ocean as the Southern Ocean henceforth and put it on the maps. Alex Tait, the official geographer of the society, informed that the Southern Ocean was recognized by scientists long ago. However, it was not internationally recognized due to geographic nerdiness.
He further added that education will have a huge impact due to the addition of this fifth ocean. According to him, students have so far known about four major ocean bodies all over the world but that will change now.
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Cartographic Changes To Add Fifth Ocean
National Geographic had started making maps in 1915 yet the society did not formally recognize the fifth ocean. Instead, they labeled four oceans bordering the continents. On the other hand, the Southern Ocean was not defined by any of the continents surrounding it.
Rather it is represented by the ACC (Antarctic Circumpolar Current) that flows to the east from the west. Scientists of the society believe ACC had been created 34 million years back when Antarctica was segregated from South America. This separation allowed the water to flow near the southern part of the planet without obstacles.
Four oceans or five? It’s #WorldOceansDay🌊 and National Geographic is making a change to recognize the Southern Ocean as a fifth official ocean in our atlases and maps! https://t.co/HSHRUAyWuE
— National Geographic (@NatGeo) June 8, 2021
Presently, the ACC Flows all over the water body surrounding Antarctica till 60 degrees south. The ACC waters are usually colder and a little less salty compared to the ocean waters of the north.
It has also been known that the ACC attracts water from the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans that helps it drive the “conveyor belt” worldwide. This belt carries the heat across the earth and the dense cold water of the ACC sinks and enables carbon-storing in deep oceans.
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Global Ocean Waters
Although the exact definition of an ocean is debatable, this fifth ocean is certainly a crucial part of the cartography now. The name of Southern Ocean was first used in order to define the waters near the bottom of the earth. This is mainly due to the reason that it was initially discovered by Vasco Balboa, a Spanish explorer, during the 16th century. He continued using the fifth ocean that soon became an essential route for international trade and commerce in the later years.
The fifth ocean was recognized by “hydrographic” authorities by the 19th century and appeared in several publications by merchant and navy institutions. Nonetheless, there has been no real justification for naming the fifth ocean as the Southern Ocean. Although, it became very important for numerous reasons.
As of now, scientists and researchers are studying the fifth ocean for its anthropogenic dynamics that are getting affected by climate change. This recently recognized ocean is definitely suffering the worst impacts of global warming as the ice sheets of Antarctica melting at an exponential speed. Due to these reasons, the Southern Ocean has emerged as one of the most important oceans in the world.
Image Credits: IHO