Do you know how many oceans there are on our planet? Actually, there are more than you think! Finally, the international society has recognised there are five oceans on the Earth and one of them is the Southern Ocean which might be unknown to you.
The history of the Southern Ocean
If you have never heard about the existence of the Southern Ocean, you should know its waters are surrounding Antarctica creating a circle around the part of the world. Unlike all of the oceans which you have known for years, the Southern Ocean has been separated from other water masses by a different approach.
In point of fact, the traditional division for the oceans is based on the location of land. Actually, it is the land which is separating oceans from each other. The situation with the water masses encircling Antarctica is different though. There is no land to separate it from other oceans that is why the scientists were looking for serious reasons to regard the water of the Southern Ocean unique so that it can be classified as a separate ocean.
The quest for looking for the unique features of the waters of the Southern Ocean took a rather long time. National Geographic started creating its maps in 1915 which is more than a hundred years ago. Back to that time, its team had already found separating the Southern Ocean from the rest of the oceans a sensible idea. Yet, as it has already been said, there was no agreement of the reasons for doing so among the scientific organisations. As a result, the Southern Ocean did not exist officially for a rather long time.
The uniqueness of the Southern Ocean
It has been mentioned above that there is a large difference between the Southern Ocean and the rest of the oceans of our planet. The location of the Southern Ocean makes it touch three continents. Yet, you cannot say these continents are embracing the ocean. On the contrary, the Southern Ocean is completely embracing the continent.
What is then separating the Southern Ocean from other water bodies of the planet? It is Antarctic Circumpolar Current. Thus, the current is defining this ocean rather than land.
What is in the Southern Ocean?
According to the new appointment in the international scientific societies, a great part of the water surrounding Antarctica are regarded to be the Southern Ocean. The limit for the water is set to 60 degrees of the south latitude. Note that Scotia Sea as well as the drake Passage were excluded from the waters of the new ocean.
The estimations of the scientific research tell us that ACC (an abbreviation for Antarctic Circumpolar Current) occurred nearly 34 million years ago. This happened around the time of the separation of Antarctica from South America. As you can imagine, the detachment of the land from the continent gave space for the flow of water which is now surrounding the bottom part of our planet.
You might be wondering whether there are any physical differences between the quality of the waters of the Southern Ocean and other oceans. Actually, there is. The water of the Southern Ocean is colder and not thus salty as the water of the ocean lying to the north.
The significance of the Southern Ocean
Actually, due to Antarctic Circumpolar Current, there is a massive water transport happening in the Southern Ocean. The ocean is pulling the water from other oceans such as the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean as well as the Atlantic Ocean. This intensive water flow contributes to the conveyor belt. This term is used by scientists to describe the heat circulation around our planet. Because of its physical characteristics, ACC has a significant role in this process.
Another crucial feature of the waters of the Southern Ocean is that it stores carbon in its deep layers. As a result, the ocean has a serious impact on the climate of the Earth.
Now, when the human activity is causing the climate change, the water of the Southern Ocean is also getting a higher temperature. The task of scientists is to research the effects of the increase of the water temperature on Antarctica.
In fact, the influence of the Southern Ocean on the environment was one of the major reasons for officially recognising the existence of this ocean. This will help scientists to promote the awareness of ecological issues among people.
The environment of the Southern Ocean
Needless to say, the environment of the coldest ocean on the Earth is certainly different form the environment of other oceans. The marine life of its water includes a lot of unique species. Some of the most well-known ones are certainly seals, whales and penguins.
Since the environments of different parts of our planet are interconnected, the Southern Ocean is also important for other ecosystems. For example, such a species as humpback whales feeds in krill in this part of the world. Afterwards, it migrates far away from Antarctica to the regions of Central and South America.