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How Ocean Currents Moderate Climate

Ocean currents transfer heat around the globe; the Gulf Stream is a great example.

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The Southern Ocean

The Southern Ocean

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Antarctic_Circumpolar_Current.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

The Southern Ocean became the fifth ocean in 2000. Unlike the other oceans, it is not separated from the other oceans by land. The Southern Ocean is separated by a strong surface current, the Antarctic Circumpolar Current.

Why It Matters

  • The other oceans are the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian and Arctic.
  • The northern boundary of the Southern Ocean is the 60° South latitude line, which does not run across any land.
  • The world’s largest current the Antarctic Circumpolar Current circles Antarctica.
  • The Southern Ocean has a unique ecosystem. Protection efforts are stalled.
  • Credit: Robert Pitman
    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Killer_Whale_Tipe_B.jpg
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    Some of Antarctic life includes Weddell seals, orcas, penguins, blue whales, krill, and mollusks. [Figure2]

Show What You Know

With the link below, learn more about the Southern Ocean. Then answer the following questions.

  1. What reasons are there for the Southern Ocean to be considered an ocean?
  2. How does the Southern Ocean affect global climate?
  3. Why is the upwelling in the Southern Ocean important?
  4. Some people say there is only one ocean. What argument can you make for that idea?

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Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech; Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Antarctic_Circumpolar_Current.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: Robert Pitman; Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Killer_Whale_Tipe_B.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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