National Geographic announced Tuesday that it is officially recognizing the body of water around the Antarctic as Earth’s fifth ocean: Southern Ocean.
The change marks the first time in a century that the organization has redrawn oceanic maps of the world, which historically include only four: the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian and Arctic Oceans.
“The Southern Ocean has long been recognized by scientists, but there was never agreement internationally, so we didn’t recognize it officially,” National Geographic Society geographer Alex Tait told the magazine.
“It’s geographical monotony in some ways,” Tait said. “We’ve always labeled it, but we’ve labeled it a little differently [than other oceans]. This change was taking the final step, saying that we want to recognize it because of its ecological isolation.”
According to National Geographic, the Southern Ocean extends from the coast of Antarctica to 60 degrees south latitude, except for the Drake Passage and the Scotia Sea. The latest body of water makes it the second smallest after the Arctic.
According to the magazine, the waters that surround the southern continent have distinctive ecological features, including its unique current pattern known as the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, or ACC.
National Geographic reported that the ACC makes the waters around Antarctica cooler and slightly less salty than those in the north, which helps transport heat around the world and store carbon in the deep ocean – all of which are important on the planet. have an impact on.
The change broke from guidance outlined by the International Hydrographic Organization, which standardizes marine mapping and official names.
The organization has yet to agree on a proposal that was submitted in 2000 to add the Southern Ocean to the world map, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. However, most countries including the US treat the body of water as a separate one.
Tait told National Geographic that he expects the organization’s new policy to have a massive impact on education.
“Students learn information about the ocean world depending on which oceans you are studying,” he said. “If you don’t include the Southern Ocean you don’t learn the nuances of it and how important it is.”
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