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Ocean And Its Current

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  • Last Updated : 10 Aug, 2022
  • Ocean current is a continuous, focused movement of seawater caused by factors including the earth’s rotation, wind, temperature, salinity differences, air pressure, and differences in the density of the seawater, among others. The rotation of the globe has little impact on ocean currents.
  • Water in the ocean can move both horizontally and vertically. Vertical shifts are referred to as upwellings or downwellings whereas horizontal movements are known as currents.
  • Ocean currents resemble river flows. They show a consistent flow of water traveling in a specific path and direction. There are two different types of forces that affect ocean currents: (i) primary forces, which cause the water to start moving, and (ii) secondary forces, which cause the current to flow.
  • Solar-generated heat, winds, gravity, and the Coriolis force are the main factors that affect currents. The water expands as a result of solar heating.
  • Trade winds cause the ocean currents to flow in opposite directions, clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and anticlockwise in the Southern.

Types of Ocean currents:

These currents can be divided into surface currents and deep water currents according to their depth.

(i) Surface current—Making up around 10% of the ocean’s total water, these waters are found in the top 400 metres.

(ii) Deep water current—This makes up the remaining 90% of ocean water. Variations in density and gravity cause these waters to travel around the ocean basins.

Ocean Currents Classification (on the basis of temperature):

  1. Cold Current- It flows from areas of low temperature to areas of high temperature.
  2. Warm Current- It flows from areas of high temperature to areas of low temperature.

Currents Of The Atlantic Ocean:

North Equatorial Current

Properties – Warm ocean current

Note:

  1. It moves parallel to the equator under the influence of the trade winds from the coast of Africa in the east to the West Indies in the west.

Antilles Current

Properties – Hot and warm ocean current

Note-

  1. The south equatorial current separates into two forks near Cape Sao Roque (Brazil). The warm Brazilian current sends one branch south. The other branch turns north and flows into the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico with the North Equatorial Current. The remaining parts of the south Equatorial current travel toward the eastern coasts of the western island groupings, where they are known as the Antilles current.

Florida Current

Properties – Hot and warm ocean current

Note:

  1. The current flows from the Gulf of Mexico to the Florida Strait under the influence of trade winds. It meets up with the Antilles current here.
  2. The branch entering the Gulf of Mexico is reinforced by a great bulk of warm ocean water driven by the trade winds and by the water brought by the Mississippi River. As a result, the water level in the Gulf rises as compared to that of the Atlantic ocean. this difference in water level is compensated for by the current flowing out through the Strait of Florida, the combined current moves along the South-eastern coast of the United States and is known as the Florida current up to the Cape Hatteras.

Gulf Stream

Properties – Hot and warm ocean current

Note:

  1. The Gulf Stream is formed when the Florida warm current and the Antilles warm current meet. The Gulf Stream is a warm, fast-moving Atlantic current that follows the United States’ Eastern Coastline.
  2. Gulf Stream is the name of the current that extends from Cape Hatteras to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Lots of warm water from the Gulf of Mexico is absorbed by the Gulf Stream, which transports it to chilly regions. Beginning in a south-westerly to a north-easterly orientation, it runs along the east coast of America. It is influenced by westerlies around Halifax and travels to the Gulf of St. Lawrence under their guidance. In the deep waters, the Gulf Stream may be clearly seen.

North Atlantic Drift or Current

Properties – Warm ocean current

Note:

  1. Between 45 degrees north latitude and 45 degrees west longitude are where the current originates. The Gulf stream travels to Europe by this current. Countries in the sub-polar region, such as Norway, benefit the most from the current drift. Because Northern Europe receives a lot of snow in the winter, the mild North Atlantic current stops the region from being too cold and keeps the harbors from getting too iced up. As a result, the “Blanket of Europe” refers to the warm circulation in the North Atlantic.

Norwegian Current

Properties – Hot and warm ocean current

Note:

  1. When it reaches the European coast, the North Atlantic drift splits into two forks. The northern branch enters the Arctic Ocean after it exits the British Isles and travels around the Norwegian coast as the Norwegian current.

Canary Current

Properties – Cold ocean current

Note:

  1. The second branch of the North Atlantic drift takes a southerly turn and flows between Spain and Azores as the cold Canaries current. This current finally joins the North Equatorial Current completing the circuit in the North Atlantic. It eventually merges with the North Equatorial Current.

East Greenland Current

Properties – Cold ocean current

Note:

  1. In a north-south direction, the current passes along Greenland’s eastern shore.

Labrador Current

Properties – Cold ocean current

Note:

  1. The current flows north-south along the Labrador coast, starting in the Baffin Bay and ending in the Davis Strait. 
  2. It brings a large number of icebergs from the Baffin Bay. The East Greenland Current joins it at the Southern tip of Greenland. The joint current moves further southwards and joins with the Gulf Stream. The confluence of the warm Gulf Stream and cold Labrador current produces thick fog near Newfoundland.

South Equatorial Current

Properties – Warm ocean current

Note: 

  1. It flows nearly parallel to the equator from east to west and is located south of it.

Brazilian Current

Properties – Hot and warm ocean current

Note:

  1. In close proximity to Cape-De-Sa Roque, the South Atlantic current splits into two forks (Brazil). As opposed to the southern branch, which turns south and travels along the South American coast as the Brazil current, the northern branch joins the North Equatorial current.

South Atlantic Current

Properties – Cold ocean current

Note:

  1. The Brazil current swings eastward at about latitude 35 degree South to join the West wind drift flowing from west to east.
  2. The Falkland current meets the Brazilian current at latitude 40 degrees south. The South Atlantic Current, as a whole, flows eastward. The stream is deflected northward as the frigid Benguela current as it reaches Africa’s west coast. It causes the west’s chilly arctic seas to flow into tropical latitudes.

Benguela Current

Properties – Cold ocean current

Note:

  1. The “Benguela current” is the only cold current in the South Atlantic Ocean. It runs northward along South Africa’s west coast near the Cape of Good Hope. It combines with the South Equatorial Current as it progresses.
  2. The Benguela current goes north-westerly to join the South equatorial current, driven by the recurring south-east trade winds. The currents of the South Atlantic ocean have now completed their circuit.

Falkland Current

Properties – Cold ocean current

Note:

  1. From south to north, it flows along South America’s southeast coast. Huge icebergs from the Antarctic region are brought in by this, and when they mix with the warm water, they produce fog.

Facts worth noting

The Sargasso Sea is a calm body of water that is surrounded by the Gulf Stream, North Atlantic Drift, and Canaries currents. Sargassum seaweed, as it is named in Portuguese, is abundant there. As a result, it is called the Sargasso Sea. It covers a vast area of roughly 11,000 square kilometres.

 


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