‘Southern Ocean’ recognised as fifth ocean | Polarjournal
Everything south of 60 degrees latitude is now called the ‘Southern Ocean’. (Graphic: NGS)

National Geographic magazine, with cartographer Alex Tait, announced on June 8, 2021, that it now officially recognizes five oceans, adding the “Southern Ocean” to a list that already includes the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and Arctic Oceans. The announcement was made as part of World Oceans Day.

Large parts of the ‘Southern Ocean’ are covered with ice. (Image: Rosamaria Kubny)

The Southern Ocean extends from the coast of Antarctica to the 60th parallel south and includes the southern reaches of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Unlike other oceans, the Southern Ocean is not defined by the continents, which makes the Southern Ocean special. It is instead marked by the flow of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, which flows around Antarctica. The current forms an invisible ring around Antarctica, where the water is colder and less salty than in the north.

“The Southern Ocean has been recognized by scientists for a long time, but because there was never an agreement internationally, we never officially recognized it,” Alex Tait, a geographer with the National Geographic Society told National Geographic. The National Geographic Society’s map policy committee had been considering the change for years, he said, and had now made it after scientists and the press increasingly used the term “Southern Ocean.” The National Geographic Society has been producing maps for over a century and employs geographers to oversee any changes.

Alex Tait is a geographer at the National Geographic Society, where he leads geographic information systems mapping initiatives and location data collection and resources for National Geographic Labs. (Photo: NGS)

Also the NOAA(National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) officially recognized the new ocean earlier this year, and the US Board on Geographic Names has named it so since 1999.

The National Geographic Society hopes that the attention it is giving to the Southern Ocean will help promote its protection. Scientists are currently investigating exactly how climate change will affect the waters.

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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