We have a new ocean – can you name all five?

We have a new ocean - can you name all five?

The West Wind Drift flows through the entire water column, from the sea surface to the ocean floor, and carries more water than any other ocean current. It draws seawater from the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, and drives a global “conveyor belt” of seawater called “thermohaline circulation,” which distributes heat around the equator across the planet. In addition, icy water (at a higher density than warm water) sinking to the sea floor around Antarctica contributes to carbon dioxide storage.2 in the deep sea. On both sides, the Southern Ocean plays a crucial role in Earth’s climate.

Scientists are currently studying the impact of man-made climate change on the Southern Ocean. They have discovered that the ocean waters carried by the West Winddrift are getting more and more warm, but it is still not clear what the consequences of this will be for Antarctica. It has been found that the areas where the West Wind Drift is closest to the continent have some of the fastest melting ice caps and plateaus.

Unparalleled environment

By locking in the cold waters around the Antarctic, the West Wind Drift keeps the continent cool and the Southern Ocean unlike any other. Thousands of animal species live exclusively in these waters and nowhere else.

National Geographic Visiting Researcher Enrique Sala said the Southern Ocean “has unique and fragile marine ecosystems that are home to beautiful marine life such as whales, penguins and seals.”

Moreover, the environmental impact of the Southern Ocean is also felt elsewhere. For example, humpback whales feed on krill off the coast of Antarctica and then migrate north to winter in completely different ecosystems, off the coasts of South and Central America. Some seabirds also migrate farther north and return from the Southern Ocean.

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By drawing attention to the Southern Ocean, the National Geographic Society hopes to strengthen its protection.

The impact of industrial fisheries on species such as krill and Antarctic deep-sea hake in the Southern Ocean has been a concern for decades. Fishing quotas were introduced in the area in 1982. And in 2016, the world’s largest marine reserve was established off the coast of West Antarctica. Many organizations are calling for more marine protected areas to be defined to protect the major feeding areas of the Southern Ocean, for example off the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula.

“Many countries around the world support protecting some of these areas from industrial fishing fleets,” Sala said.

Draw a map of the world

Since the late 1970s, the National Geographic Society has appointed a chief cartographer who oversees changes and alterations to all maps published by the organization. Tate has held this position since 2016.

According to him, he approaches his task in a journalistic manner. It must keep abreast of developments in the world and monitor who controls which areas.

“It is important to note that this issue is about the politics of cartography, not the position of society on geopolitical conflicts,” he says. For example, National Geographic maps indicate that the Falkland Islands are British territory, although Argentina also claims this group of islands. When it comes to contested areas, Tate works with a team of geographers and editors to determine how to most realistically represent the situation in a given area.

“It is important to note that this issue is about the politics of cartography, not the position of society on geopolitical conflicts,” he says. For example, National Geographic maps indicate that the Falkland Islands are British territory, although Argentina also claims this group of islands. When it comes to contested areas, Tate works with a team of geographers and editors to determine how to most realistically represent the situation in a given area.

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In general, National Geographic follows the guidelines of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) when it comes to marine area names. While the International Hydrographic Organization is not directly responsible for the naming of marine areas, it does work with the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names to standardize the naming at the international level. The IHO already recognized the Southern Ocean in its 1937 guidelines, but rescinded the award in 1953 due to controversies over its validity. Since then, the body has continued to discuss the naming of the district, but has never been able to reach an agreement among its members to reintroduce the designation.

In contrast, the American Council on Geographical Names has been using the name since 1999, and in February of this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) officially recognized the Southern Ocean as a separate marine area.

According to Tait, new National Geographic policies will affect how children use maps at school and explore the world.

“I think one of the main effects will be felt in education,” he says. “Students learn about the sea world through the oceans they study. If the Southern Ocean is not included, you will not learn the details about the great importance of that ocean.”

The National Geographic Society is dedicated to highlighting and protecting the splendor of our world, and supporting the work of National Geographic researchers Sylvia Earl, Enrique Sala and Seth Sikora Bodhi. Read more On the Society’s support for ocean researchers.

This article was originally published in English at NationalGeographic.com

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