Atlantic Ocean – “There’s probably more history now preserved underwater than in all the museums of the world combined. And there’s no law governing that history. It’s finders keepers.”
The Atlantic Ocean, explained
Atlantic Ocean, body of salt water covering approximately one-fifth of Earth’s surface and separating the continents of Europe and Africa to the east from those of North and South America to the west. The ocean’s name, derived from Greek mythology, means the “Sea of Atlas.” It is second in size to the Pacific Ocean.
The second-largest ocean on Earth, the Atlantic drives our weather patterns, including hurricanes, and is home to many species from sea turtles to dolphins.
For centuries the Atlantic Ocean has been a key avenue of trade and travel. Stretching from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica, the Atlantic Ocean is bordered by the Americas to the west and Europe and Africa to the east.
It’s more than 41 million square miles, the second-largest ocean on Earth after the Pacific Ocean.
Scientists and geographers broadly separate the Atlantic in terms of north and south. The North Atlantic and South Atlantic each have distinct ocean currents that influence weather around the world.
FACTS ABOUT ATLANTIC OCEAN YOU NEED TO KNOW
1. Location: Where is the Atlantic Ocean?
The Equator divides the Atlantic Ocean into the North Atlantic Ocean and the South Atlantic Ocean and is located between Americas to the West of the Atlantic Ocean basin and the continents of Europe and Africa to the East. The Equator divides the Atlantic Ocean into the North Atlantic Ocean and the South Atlantic Ocean.
Below you can see a world map showing the Atlantic Ocean:
There are many islands in the Atlantic Oceans, among the most well-known are:
- The Bahamas
- Canary Islands (Spain)
- Azores (Portugal)
- Cap Verde Islands
- Greenland, which not only is the largest island in the Atlantic Ocean, but also on earth.
2. Name: What does ‘atlantic’ mean?
The word ’Atlantic ’ originates from the Greek mythology meaning ‘Sea of Atlas’. Atlas was the titan who had to stand on the edge of the earth and carry the heavens (celestial spheres) on his shoulders as punishment from Zeus as Atlas had fought against the Olympian gods for the control of the heavens.
3. Size: How big is the Atlantic Ocean?
The Atlantic is the world’s second largest ocean and covers 25% of the Earth’s surface, after the Pacific Ocean. In size the Atlantic Ocean is comparable with roughly 6.5 times the size of the USA.
4. Depth: How deep is the Atlantic Ocean?
The greatest depth is the Milwaukee Deep in Puerto Rico: 8,605 metres/28,232 ft. The average depth is about 3,339 metres/10,955 ft. The Mid-Adtlantic Ridge is an underwater (also called submarine) mountain range which extends roughly from Iceland in the north to South Georgia and South Sandwich Island south of Argentina. The ridge divides the sea into two major basins, which are over 3,000 metres/9,843 ft. in depth. On the satellite image to the left, you can see the vertical (from top to bottom) light blue line in the deep blue sea.
5. Temperature: How warm are the waters of the Atlantic Ocean?
The temperatures of the Atlantic Ocean depend on the location and on the ocean’s currents. The nearer to the Equator the warm the water tends to be. The higher temperature of 28 degrees Celsius/82 degrees Fahrenheit is reached in coastal regions near the equator and the minimum temperatures is around -2 degrees Celsius/28 degrees Fahrenheit in the polar regions.
6. Important Waterways: The Straits of Gibraltar between Spain and Morocco and the Bosporus in Turkey are two of the most well known waterways in the Atlantic Ocean.
7. Atlantic Ocean Facts: Among the major seaports of the Atlantic Ocean, remember these major ports:
- Rotterdam (Netherlands), the biggest container port in Europe.
- Hamburg (Germany)
- New York (USA)
- Buenos Aires (Argentina)
- Colon (Panama), the largest port on the Atlantic Ocean in Latin America with over 3 million containers per year!
8. Width: The greatest width of the ocean is between Brazil and Sierra Leone: 2,848 km or 1770 miles.
9. Atlantic Ocean Facts: Some other big cities on the Atlantic Ocean are
- Miami (USA)
- Sao Paolo (Brazil)
- Cape Town (South Africa)
- Lagos (Nigeria)
- Casablanca (Morocco)
- Lisbon (Portugal)
- London (UK)
- Reykjavik (Iceland)
10. Did you know?
Leif Erikson (970-1020) is remembered as the first ‘European’ to reach North America more than 500 years before Columbus!
The Icelander is said to have been the first man from Europe to cross the Atlantic Ocean and step onto North American land. He named the eastern coast of Canada ‘Vinland’, which is believed to be what is now Newfoundland.
More about atlantic’s physiography
The Atlantic is, generally speaking, S-shaped and narrow in relation to its length. The area of the Atlantic without its dependent seas is approximately 31,830,000 square miles (82,440,000 square km), and with them its area is about 41,100,000 square miles (106,460,000 square km). It has an average depth (with its seas) of 10,925 feet (3,300 metres) and a maximum depth of 27,493 feet (8,380 metres) in the Puerto Rico Trench, north of the island of Puerto Rico.
The ocean’s breadth from east to west varies considerably. Between Newfoundland and Ireland it is about 2,060 miles (3,320 km); farther south it widens to more than 3,000 miles (4,800 km) before narrowing again so that the distance from Cape São Roque, Brazil, to Cape Palmas, Liberia, is only some 1,770 miles (2,850 km). Southward it again becomes broader and is bordered by simple coasts almost without islands; between Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope the ocean approaches Antarctica on a broad front nearly 4,000 miles (6,500 km) wide.
Although not the largest of the world’s oceans, the Atlantic has by far the largest drainage area. The continents on both sides of the Atlantic tend to slope toward it, so that it receives the waters of a great proportion of the major rivers of the world; these include the St. Lawrence, the Mississippi, the Orinoco, the Amazon, the Río de la Plata, the Congo, the Niger, the Loire, the Rhine, the Elbe, and the great rivers draining into the Mediterranean, Black, and Baltic seas. In contrast to the South Atlantic, the North Atlantic is rich in islands, in the variety of its coastline, and in tributary seas. The latter include the Caribbean Sea, the Gulfs of Mexico and St. Lawrence, and Hudson and Baffin bays on the west and the Baltic, North, Mediterranean, and Black seas on the east.
Water currents and gyres
The ocean doesn’t sit still like water in a sink. It moves more like a conveyer belt that’s driven by changes in temperature and salinity over large areas. Both quick-moving surface currents and slower-moving deep ocean currents circulate water around the globe.
The seawater is constantly trying to find a balance. Warm water is less dense than cold water, so as water cools, it sinks, and warm water replaces it. Water with high salinity—more salt—also moves into waters with lower salinity. Those factors drive the conveyer belt, a process also called thermohaline circulation.
Warm water is heated by the Gulf Stream, a warm air current that originates in the Gulf of Mexico. The warm water then moves north, where it forces cooler water to sink and move south. As the current moves toward Antarctica, upwelling pushes cold water back to the surface, pushing the watery conveyer belt around the world. Scientists estimate that it takes the conveyer belt about 500 years to make one trip.
Without Africa’s Sahara Desert, few hurricanes would strike the eastern coast of North America. That’s because a wind stream called the African Easterly Jet is formed from the difference in the Sahara’s dry, hot air and the humid cooler air to the west and south. The jet pushes westerly winds over Africa’s west coast, where they sometimes pick up ocean water and form thunderstorms.
Islands of the Atlantic Ocean
Among purely oceanic islands (i.e., those without any foundation of continental rock, usually formed as the result of volcanic action) are Iceland, the Azores, Ascension, St. Helena, Tristan da Cunha, Bouvet, and Gough, which all rise from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge; and the Canary, Madeira, and Cape Verde islands and Fernando de Noronha (near Cape São Roque), which rise from the continental margins of Africa and South America. Volcanic islands of a different sort are those of the two great arcs: the Lesser Antilles and the South Sandwich Islands. Partly continental and partly oceanic are the Greater Antilles in the Caribbean and South Georgia and the South Orkney Islands in the Scotia Sea. Purely continental are the British Isles, Newfoundland, the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), and Greenland, which is an extension of the Canadian Shield