The Atlantic Ocean is a body of salt water that covers roughly one-fifth of the Earth’s surface and separates the continents of Europe and Africa to the east and North and South America to the west. The ocean’s name is derived from Greek mythology and means “Sea of Atlas.” It is second only to the Pacific Ocean in size.
It is the second-largest ocean, covering an area of 106,460,000sq.km. It is located between North and South America in the west and Europe and Africa in the east. It was formed due to the drifting of North and South Americas to the west due to plate tectonics. The Atlantic Ocean is S-shaped. It has an average depth of 3,646 meters.
The behaviour of Atlantic Ocean currents influences climatic conditions in North-western Europe and Africa. The ocean has an interconnected current powered by the Earth’s rotation, wind, sun, and water density. To help IAS 2023 candidates’ preparation, the following article discusses Atlantic Ocean currents. They can use the information provided below to prepare UPSC notes properly.
Read about: Indian Ocean Dipole
Atlantic Ocean Countries
Seas that make up the Atlantic Ocean and their bordering Countries are given below in the table:
|Name of Sea||Bordering Countries|
|Argentine Sea||Argentina, Uruguay, Antarctica|
|Baltic Sea||Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Russia, Finland|
|Black Sea||Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, Turkey|
|Gulf of Mexico||US, Mexico, Cuba|
|Greenland Sea||Greenland, Iceland, Svalbard (Norway)|
|Caribbean Sea||Cuba, Jamaica, Dominican Rep, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras Belize, Venezuela, Columbia, Panama|
|Hudson Bay||Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and Nunavut provinces of Canada|
|Irminger Sea||Iceland, Greenland, Canada|
|James Bay||Quebec and Ontario provinces of Canada|
|Labrador Sea||Labrador peninsula of Canada, Greenland|
Atlantic Ocean Map
For a better understanding of the Atlantic Ocean region, refer to the following Atlantic Ocean Map given below:
Atlantic Ocean Deepest Point
The Milwaukee Depth, the deepest point in the Atlantic Ocean, is located about 100 miles (160 km) northwest of the island of Puerto Rico at a depth of 27,493 feet (8,380 m). It is contained within a submerged depression known as the Puerto Rico Trench, which is situated between the North Antillean Arc and the Puerto Rico Ridge at the southern end of the North American Basin.
Atlantic Ocean Water Circulation
The Atlantic Ocean is primarily influenced by the prevailing wind system and the constraints imposed by the land along which it moves. The Atlantic Ocean Current is responsible for the circulation of ocean water.
The Atlantic Ocean is the world’s second-largest ocean, stretching from the Northern to the Southern Hemispheres. It makes up about one-fifth of the earth’s surface. The Atlantic Ocean currents have a significant impact on the climates of North-Western Europe and North-Western Africa. The currents also help to preserve the fishing grounds in the Grand Banks off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, which is one of the richest fishing grounds on the planet.
Read More: Ocean Waves
Atlantic Ocean Currents
Ocean currents are the movement of a consistent volume of water in a specific path and direction. Certain factors influence ocean currents, including Water expansion as a result of solar energy heating.
Wind blowing across the ocean’s surface propels water movement. The force of gravity draws the water inward, causing gradient variation. Water moves to the left in the Southern Hemisphere and to the right in the Northern Hemisphere due to the effect of the Coriolis force. All of these factors have an impact on the Atlantic Ocean’s ocean currents.
Read More: Ocean Tides
Equatorial Atlantic Ocean Currents
The Easterly Trade Winds in the region constantly drift two currents from east to west known as the North Equatorial current and the South Equatorial current, which originate on Africa’s west coast. Between the two equatorial currents flows an eastward-flowing equatorial counter-current. These are all warm currents due to their proximity to the equator. There are three of them in the equatorial region. They are as follows:
1. North Equatorial Current
Normally, this equatorial current forms between the equator and 10° N latitude. This current is formed by the upwelling of cold water off Africa’s west coast.
This warm current flows from east to west but is deflected to the north when it crosses the mid-Atlantic Ridge near 15°N latitude and then turns south. The east coast of Brazil’s land barrier divides the current into the Antilles current and the Caribbean current.
2. South Atlantic Equatorial Current
This warm current flows from the western coast of Africa to the eastern coast of South America between the equator and 20° S latitude. When the current reaches Brazil’s east coast, it splits into two branches. One travels north and joins the north equatorial current near Trinidad. The other runs south, parallel to South America’s east coast.
3. Counter-Equatorial Current
The counter-equatorial current flows westward between the strong equatorial currents to the north and south. The eastward drift, known as the Guinea Stream, is stronger. It has a higher temperature and lower density than the other two equatorial currents.
Read More: Ocean Currents
North Atlantic Ocean Currents
The trade winds in the North Atlantic play an important role in maintaining consistent east-west currents. The following are the major ocean currents in the Northern Hemisphere’s Atlantic Ocean:
1. Gulf Stream
The Gulf Stream is a system of several currents that originates in the Mexican Gulf around 20° N latitude. It continues north-eastward along the eastern coast of North America until it reaches the western coasts of Europe around 70° N latitude. The current system consists of the following components:
- The Florida Current flows from the Florida Strait to Cape Hatteras.
- The Gulf Stream begins at Cape Hatteras and travels to Grand Bank.
- The North Atlantic Drift moves from Grand Bank to the Western European coast.
2. Canaries Current
This current transports cold water from the polar regions’ higher latitudes. It is the continuation of the North Atlantic Drift, which flows south along the Canary Islands’ coast after turning south near the Spanish coast. The cold current cools the otherwise hot Western African coast between Madeira and Cape Verde, where it flows at an average speed of 8 to 30 nautical miles per day.
3. Labrador Current
The Labrador Current is a cold current that flows along the coasts of Newfoundland and Grand Banks from Baffin Bay and the Davis Strait off the coast of Greenland. It brings large icebergs to this region, making it difficult to navigate the ocean. It merges with the warm Gulf Stream near Newfoundland around 50°W longitude, resulting in dense fog.
Read More: Ocean Deposits
South Atlantic Ocean Currents
The South Atlantic Ocean flows in a pattern similar to the North Atlantic Ocean, but in the opposite direction. The Southern Hemisphere is home to four major ocean currents. These are discussed further below:
1. Falkland Current
The Falkland Current transports cold water from the Antarctic Sea. It runs from south to north, up the east coast of South America to Argentina. Around 300S latitude, the current is at its most powerful. It transports icebergs from the Antarctic region to the South American coast.
2. Brazilian Current
This warm current formed by the South Equatorial Current bifurcation at Cape Sao Roque in Northeast Brazil is highly saline. It flows southward along South America’s east coast up to 40° S latitude. The impact of the Westerlies and the rotation of the earth then deflects it to the east. It combines with the cold Falkland current, which comes from the south under 40° South latitude.
3. South Atlantic Drift
The South Atlantic Drift, also known as the Westerlies Drift, is the eastward continuation of the Brazil current. The Westerlies cause the deflection of the southward moving Brazil current to the east, hence the name Westerlies Drift. The Antarctic Drift is another name for this cold current.
4. Benguela Current
When the South Atlantic Drift splits at the southern tip of Africa, a branch of the drift flows along South Africa’s west coast. This is known as the cold Benguela current, and it eventually connects with the south equatorial current to complete the ocean current circuit.
Atlantic Ocean UPSC
The ten major Atlantic Ocean currents have been discussed in this article. Their origin, the factors that influence their movements, and the paths they take have all been identified. In addition to this topic, it is critical to study the Pacific and Indian Ocean currents to gain a comprehensive understanding of how they operate and the impact they have on climate systems.