We are all familiar with the already existing four oceans on Earth but out of nowhere on 8th June (World Oceans Day), the National Geographic Society announced that it is officially going to recognize the water body surrounding the Antarctic as the Earth’s fifth ocean – The Southern Ocean.
This denotes the first time in over a century that the National Geographic cartographers have redrawn the world’s oceanic maps, since the society began making maps in 1915, which previously included only four – the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and Arctic Oceans.
Why was The Southern Ocean recognized as the fifth ocean now?
Previously, the massive water bodies surrounding the southernmost continent were viewed as an extension of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans.
But during the past few years, scientists have studied the unique nature of the Antarctic waters, largely due to unique currents that flow there, which is known as the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, this current makes the waters colder and slightly less salty, which helps store carbon deep in the ocean and has a critical impact on the Earth’s climate, according to the Magazine.
The society’s official geographer Alex Tait told the National Geographic website, “The Southern Ocean has long been recognized by scientists, but because there was never agreement internationally, we never officially recognized it. It’s sort of geographic nerdiness in some ways.”
One of the biggest impacts would be on education, Alex said: “Students learn information about the ocean world through what oceans you’re studying. If you don’t include the Southern Ocean, then you don’t learn the specifics of it and how important it is.”
According to National Geographic, the Southern Ocean stretches from Antarctica’s coastline to 60 degrees south latitude, excluding the Drake Passage and the Scotia Sea. Which makes it the second-smallest, after the Arctic.
The International Hydrographic Organization, which standardizes sea mapping and official names, has yet to agree to a proposal that was presented in 2000 to add the fifth ocean – the Southern Ocean – to the world map, as per the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Nevertheless, few countries, including the U.S., recognize the water body as distinct.