How Many Oceans Are There
So, how many oceans are there?
While it might seem like a simple question given the fact that we have a single global ocean, which acts as the vast body of water that takes up more than 70% of the Earth's surface, there are distinct bodies of water that we refer to as "oceans" too.
These oceanic boundaries were created long ago and have continued to evolve over time for several reasons.
Come dive in with us as we explore these different oceans and why they came to be!
The Four Main Oceans
There are four main oceans that we refer to as our "named oceans," which include:
However, the United States and many other countries now recognize the Southern Ocean, which is the Antarctic Ocean, as the fifth, giving us five oceans with names.
What Is The Southern Ocean?
The Southern Ocean, which is recognized by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, is the most recent ocean. This massive body of water extends from the Antarctica coast 60 degrees south to the line of latitude.
In 2000, the Hydrographic Organization proposed these new oceanic boundaries. But, unfortunately, not every country agrees on these new boundaries, which is why the members of the IHO have yet to ratify them.
The Arctic Ocean
The Arctic Ocean is the smallest of the five main oceans, covering about six million square miles. The coastline of the Arctic Ocean stretches for about 30,000 miles, and the maximum depth is around 18,456 feet, making it the most shallow ocean on the planet.
The Arctic Ocean also happens to be the coldest of the world's oceans, with freezing temperatures throughout the year. In fact, the water is covered in ice for a majority of the year, though there are extended periods of daylight throughout the summer months.
Some neighboring geographical locations of the Arctic Ocean include Russia, Greenland, Norway, Iceland, Canada, and Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.
The Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest ocean at 52 million square miles. It has an average depth of 3,646 miles, with the deepest point lying in Puerto Rico's Milwaukee Deep. This enormous trench is more than five miles deep.
The northern part of the Atlantic Ocean is surrounded by the Arctic Ocean, while the Southern Ocean lies to the south. There are different climates in the northern and southern parts of the Atlantic Ocean due to its massive size.
With the Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic Drift, we get much warmer temperatures in north-western Europe and the British Isles. However, those currents also make for extremely cold temperatures during Newfoundland's winters.
We can find a wide variety of precious sea life in the Atlantic, including seals, dolphins, whales, sea turtles, sea lions, and more. This body of water is also home to an abundance of petroleum on the ocean floor.
The Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest ocean in the Global Ocean, covering more than 60 million square miles and making up 33% of the Earth's surface.
The deepest section of the Pacific Ocean is the Challenger Deep, which lies in the Mariana Trench in the North Pacific.
This massive ocean spans from California to China and borders both South America and Australia.
You'll find much warmer waters in the Pacific Ocean than in the Atlantic, ranging from around 32 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Pacific Ocean is also full of wildlife. These ocean animals include some of the most versatile fish species, including salmon, tuna, snapper, herring, and more!
The Indian Ocean
The third-largest ocean on Earth is the Indian Ocean, spanning over 43 million square miles and has an average two-mile depth.
The deepest part of the Indian Ocean is the Diamantina Deep, which descends more than five miles beneath the ocean's surface.
The Indian Ocean lies just south of Asia and Europe, bordering Africa to the west and Australia to the East. To the south, you'll find the Southern Ocean.
Generally, the Indian Ocean has warm waters, which is why it's such a popular environment for plant life and phytoplankton. As a result, fishermen often find plenty of fishing opportunities, especially when looking for tuna or shrimp.
The Southern Ocean
The Southern Ocean, which was previously referred to as the Antarctic Ocean, is the furthest south of the global ocean. While it is the fifth ocean to many, it is the fourth-largest of all five, encompassing the southern parts of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans.
This ocean makes up seven million square miles and has an average depth of around 14,000 feet. Most of the icebergs that you'll find in the Southern Ocean are made up of freshwater.
The Drak Passage, which lies between South America and the Antarctic Peninsula, is the narrowest area in the Southern Ocean, stretching about 600 miles. This water is extremely cold, ranging from around 28 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can find an abundance of krill in the Southern Ocean, and many different species, including isopods, sponges, sea spiders, and corals, call its ocean floor home.
There are many new studies appearing that show the seabed is home to gold, oil fields, and many other precious stones.
Many are now debating whether the Southern Ocean is an ocean at all, as the boundaries set forth compromise those originally created by the International Hydrographic Organization.
However, while there have been plenty of disagreements, for now, we still consider the Southern Ocean the fifth ocean in the world ocean.
Many people say there is only one global ocean, while others like to separate ocean boundaries to gain a better grasp on our massive planet. These five oceans are very distinct in their environmental properties. The chemical composition of seawater differs by region, which is why we like to go by the five oceans approach!
Whether you believe in only one global ocean or separate oceans, with 139 million square miles of water on the Earth's surface, these bodies of water are some of our most important natural resources on Earth and must be protected at all costs.
Now that you're an expert on the oceans, head over to our
Difference Between Sea And Ocean page to learn how to tell them apart from each other!