Ocean currents are Vertical or horizontal movements of both surface and deep water masses in the world’s oceans. This article will dive into the topic of what is Ocean current? Along with an ocean Current Map, The Warm Ocean Current, types of Ocean Currents. It will try to create an understanding of the Ocean current of the World. Don’t forget to download the HD image of Ocean Currents Map from the Link at the end of the article.
Table of Contents
- Seas and Oceans are vast and dynamic ecosystems of water.
- Wind blowing over the ocean surface has the maximum effect on the movement and direction of surface water.
- Ocean currents are Vertical or horizontal movements of both surface and deep water masses in the world’s oceans.
- Ocean Currents usually have a certain specific direction and they also aid in the circulation of the moisture on Earth.
- They are important to the world’s weather, As ocean currents circulate water worldwide, they create a significant impact on the exchange of energy and moisture between the oceans and the atmosphere.
- Various marine organisms use these currents to move from one location to another location whether it is for breeding, food or for adaptation purposes.
- Ocean currents are also gaining importance due to the possibility of harnessing alternative energy using them. As the ocean water is dense, it has a high amount of energy that could be captured and utilised using turbine generators.
- Ocean currents make a tremendous impact on the Earth.
Causes Of Ocean Currents
- The waters of the oceans are constantly on the move this movement has profound influences on the global climate and living conditions of plants and animals.
- These ocean currents, flow in complex patterns and their movement are affected by wind, salinity, density temperature, ocean morphology and relief, and the earth’s rotation.
- Ocean Currents are generally of two categories – surface water currents and deep water currents.
- Several factors and processes are involved in the generation and movement of these ocean currents.
- The major factors that determine the direction and speed of ocean currents can be divided into three types:
- Water Density Difference.
- seafloor topography
- the shape of the ocean’s basins
Types of Ocean Currents by Water Depths
Ocean Surface Currents & Ocean Deep Currents
Ocean Surface Currents
- Primarily driven by winds, resulting in horizontal and vertical movement.
- The movement of water at the ocean surface is primarily due to the winds that blow in certain patterns.
- Winds force is so strong that they are able to move the top 400 meters of the ocean water and that creates surface ocean currents.
- Winds create friction as it moves over the water and it forces the water to move in a spiral pattern, creating gyres.
- Gyres move clockwise in the Northern hemisphere and in the southern, they move counterclockwise.
- The Velocity of these surface currents is maximum at the ocean’s surface and it decreases at 100 meters below the ocean surface.
- Surface currents move over long distances, and the Coriolis force affects their movement and deflects them, creating a circular pattern.
- Finally, Gravity also plays its role in the movement of Ocean surface currents because the top of the ocean is uneven.
- Surface currents move heat from place to place over the Earth and it affects the regional climates.
Ocean Deep Currents
- The result of density differences in water is controlled by the difference in temperature and salinity.
- Deepwater currents are also called thermohaline circulation. They are found 400 meters below the surface and makeup about 90% of the ocean.
- Here also Gravity plays a major role in the creation of currents.
- Deepwater currents are mainly caused by density differences in the oceanic water masses
Types of Ocean Currents by Water Temperatures
Warm water Currents
Warm water currents form near the equator creating a warmer climate near the coastlines.
- Western boundary currents flow from the equator to high latitudes regions in the northern and southern hemispheres. These are known as warm water currents. They have specific names associated with their location as:
- North Atlantic – Gulf Stream;
- North Pacific – Kuroshio;
- South Atlantic – Brazil;
- South Pacific – East Australia; and
- Indian Ocean – Agulhas.
- All these currents are generally narrow, jet-like and flow at speeds between 40-120 km. per day.
- The Western Boundary Currents are the deepest ocean surface flows, usually extending to 1000 meters below the ocean surface.
Cold water Currents
Coldwater currents on the other hand form near the poles and travel towards the equator creating a cooler climate near the coastlines.
- The eastern boundary currents, Flow from high latitudes towards the equator. These are known as cold water currents. They also have specific names acc. to their location as:
- North Atlantic – Canary;
- North Pacific – California;
- South Atlantic – Benguela;
- South Pacific – Peru; and
- The Indian Ocean – West Australia.
- All of these currents are generally broad, shallow moving and flows at speeds of 3 and 7 km. per day.
The Mechanism of Ocean Currents
- Warm water has the capacity to hold less salt than cold water. So, it is less dense. So when the water becomes warm and less dense, it rises towards the surface of the oceans. And When it is cold, it becomes denser and this salt-laden water sinks down below.
- As warm water rises it creates a void, and the cold water is forced to rise through upwelling and fill the void left by the warm.
- Also when the cold water rises from deep down below, it also creates a void and the rising warm water is then forced, through downwelling, to descend and fill that empty space.
- That’s why it is called thermohaline circulation which is induced by differences in temperature (Thermo) and salinity (haline).
- Upwelling brings the cold, nutrient-rich water from the depths up to the surface.
- Thermohaline circulation is called Global Conveyor Belt because these circulations act as a submarine river and move water throughout the ocean. Thus circulating minerals, salts as well as organisms including Planktons.
Distribution of Ocean Currents
Ocean currents are named differently in different regions, based on their flow patterns, and geographic location, Let us see the very important currents of the three major oceanic regions.
Currents of the North Atlantic Ocean
1. East Greenland Currents
2. Irminger Current (flowing North + West)
3. West Greenland Current (flowing North)
4. Labrador Current (flowing South + East)
5. Gulf Stream (flowing North)
6. North Atlantic Current (flowing South west)
7. Canaries Current (flowing South west)
8. North Equatorial Current (flowing West)
9. Antilles Current (flowing North West)
10. Guiana Current (flowing North West)
11. Caribbean Current (flowing North West)
12. Equatorial Counter Current (flowing along the Equator towards East)
13. Guinea Current (flowing East)
Currents of the South Atlantic
14. South Equatorial Current (West)
15. Brazil Current (South)
16. Falkland Current (North)
17. Antarctica Circumpolar Current (East)
18. Benguela Current (North)
Currents of the Indian Ocean
19. Mozambique Current (South)
20. Agulhas Current (South)
21. West Australian Current (West)
22. South Equatorial Current (West)
23. Somali Current (North)
24. Monsoon Drift (East)
Currents of the South Pacific Ocean
25. East Australian Current (South)
26. Humboldt Current (North)
27. Peru Current (North – North West)
28. Equatorial Current (West)
29. South Equatorial Counter Current (E)
30. South Equatorial Current (West)
Currents of North Pacific Ocean
31. Alaska Current (South West)
32. Aleutian Current (South West)
33. Oyashio Current (South)
34. Kuroshio Current (North East)
35. Kuroshio Extension (North East)
36. California Current (South)
37. North Equatorial Current (West)
38. North Equatorial Counter Current (East)
Importance of Some of the Ocean Currents
- Gulf Stream is a warm current in the Gulf of Mexico. It moves northward towards Europe.
- Since it is full of warm water, it keeps the places of Europe warmer than other areas located at similar latitudes.
- The Humboldt Current is a cold current is situated off the coast of Chile and Peru, it makes the water here extremely productive and also keeps the coast cool and the northern Chile arid.
- The Labrador Current, flowing south out of the Arctic Ocean along the coasts of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, is famous for moving icebergs into shipping lanes in the North Atlantic Ocean.
- The Agulhas Current is a warm current, flowing south along the east coast of southern Africa. The amount of water it transports equals 70 million cubic metres per second, making it one of the largest western Boundary Currents in the world.
- The Agulhas Current has tributaries. The tributaries include
- the Mozambique Current
- the East Madagascar Current, and
- anti-clockwise re-circulatory flow in the SW Indian Ocean.
- Benguela Current is a cold current, it flows northwards along the west coast of southern Africa. Benguela is an Eastern Boundary Current and it forms the eastern flank of the South Atlantic Gyre.
- South Equatorial Current occurs in the Indian Oceans, Pacific & Atlantic, it flows east to west between the equator and approximately 20° S.
- Ocean Currents are also important for marine life because they transport creatures around the world and affect the water temperature in marine ecosystems.
- Ocean Currents also plays a crucial role in the navigation of ships.
- Knowledge of ocean currents is essential to carry out the movement of ships, reduce their shipping costs and fuel consumption.
Download Hd Image of Ocean Currents Map
Learn more about Ocean Currents from National Geographic