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November 13, 2013
MAJOR OCEAN CURRENTS OF THE ATLANTIC OCEAN
1. The Gulf Stream, together with its northern extension towards Europe, the North Atlantic Drift, is a powerful, warm, and swift Atlantic Ocean current that originates in the Gulf of Mexico, exits through the Strait of Florida, and follows the eastern coastlines of the United States and Newfoundland before crossing the Atlantic Ocean. At about 30°W, 40°N, it splits in two. with the northern stream crossing to northern Europe and the southern stream re-circulating off West Africa. The Gulf Stream influences the climate of the east coast of North America from Florida to Newfoundland, and the west coast of Europe. In fact, the climate of Western Europe and Northern Europe is warmer than it would otherwise be due to the North Atlantic drift, one of the branches from the tail of the Gulf Stream. Its presence has led to the development of strong cyclones of all types, both within the atmosphere and within the ocean. The Gulf Stream is also a significant potential source of renewable power generation.
2. The North Atlantic Drift is a warm Atlantic Ocean Current which runs from the Grand Bank, near New Foundland to western Europe. In fact, the warm Gulf Stream Current is deflected towards the east under the influence of the Westerlie winds and the rotation of the Earth and reaches Europe as the North Atlantic Drift. It is a warm current that keeps the ports of Europe free from ice even in winter. It flows in three directions — eastwards to UK, northwards to the Arctic region and southwards, along the Spanish coast, as the cool Canaries Current.
3. The Labrador Current is a cold current in the north Atlantic Ocean which flows from the Arctic Ocean south along the coast of Labrador and passes around Newfoundland, continuing south along the east coast of Nova Scotia. It is a continuation of the West Greenland Current and the Baffin Island Current. It meets the warm Gulf Stream at the Grand Banks southeast of Newfoundland and again north of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The combination of these two currents produces heavy fogs and has also created one of the richest fishing grounds in the world. In spring and early summer, this current transports icebergs from the glaciers of Greenland southwards into the trans-Atlantic shipping lanes. The waters of the Labrador Current have a cooling effect on the Canadian Atlantic provinces and coastal New England, but rarely have a significant effect on waters south of Cape Cod.
4. The Kuroshio Current is a strong western boundary current in the western north Pacific Ocean. It begins off the east coast of Taiwan and flows northeastward past Japan, where it merges with the easterly drift of the North Pacific Current. It is analogous to the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean, transporting warm, tropical water northward towards the polar region. It is also sometimes known as the Black Stream—the English translation of Kuroshio, and an allusion to the deep blue of its water—and also as the Japan Current. Its counterparts are the North Pacific Current to the north, the California Current to the east, and the North Equatorial Current to the south. The warm waters of the Kuroshio Current sustain the coral reefs of Japan, the northernmost coral reefs in the world. The branch into the Sea of Japan is called Tsushima Current. There is a concentration of uranium passing through this current every year (between 5 and 6 million tons). The Japan Current is also responsible for the mild weather experienced around Alaska's southern coast.
5. The Oyashio Current is a cold Subarctic ocean current that flows south and circulates counter clockwise in the western North Pacific Ocean. It collides with the Kuroshio Current off the eastern shore of Japan to form the North Pacific Current. The waters of the Oyashio Current originate in the Arctic Ocean and flow southward via the Bering Sea. The current has an important impact on the climate of the Russian Far East, mainly in Kamchatka and Chukotka. The waters of the Oyashio Current form probably the richest fishing grounds in the world owing to the extremely high nutrient content of the cold water and the very high tides (up to ten metres) in some areas, which further enhances the availability of nutrients. It also causes Vladivostok to be the most equatorward port to seasonally freeze and require icebreaking ships to remain open in winter. However, this has relatively little effect on the fish yield through the Sea of Okhotsk because the large tides mean freezing does not occur so easily.
The other important ocean currents are the following:
Warm Currents of the Altantic Ocean:
1. North Equatorial Current: It bifurcates into Antilles Current and Caribbean Current.
2. South Equatorial: It bifurcates at the protruding landmass of northeast Brazil into northern Cayenne Current and the southern Brazilian Current (South Atlantic Ocean).
3. Counter Equatorial Current: It flows from west to east in between the North and South Equatorial Current.
Cold Currents of the Altantic Ocean:
1. The Irminger Current or Greenland Current: If flows between Greenland and Iceland and merges with North Atlantic Drift.
2. Canaries Current: It is the continuation of North Atlantic Drift along the western coast of Iberian Peninsula and North Africa in the southern direction.
3. Falkland Current: It flows northways along the eastern coast of South America upto Argentina.
4. South Atlantic Drift: Under the influence of westerlies at about 40°S latitude, Brazilian Current continues as the South Atlantic Current.
5. Benguela Current: It flows northwards along the western coast of South Africa.