National Geographic cartographers finally spotted Antarctica’s Southern Ocean on their maps, bringing their number of Earth’s oceans to five.
The society, which has been publishing world maps since 1915, publicly announced its new policy yesterday, on the occasion of World Ocean Day.
National Geographic has defined the ocean as surrounded by the current that flows around Antarctica – with a northernmost range to 60 degrees south.
The Southern Ocean joins the Arctic, Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific on their maps, although the status of the body surrounding Antarctica remains internationally controversial.
Nonetheless, National Geographic hopes that their revised maps will help people think differently about the Southern Ocean, thereby promoting its protection.
National Geographic cartographers finally spotted Antarctica’s Southern Ocean on their maps, bringing their number of Earth’s oceans to five. Pictured: The Southern Ocean (in red) surrounds Antarctica and borders the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans
National Geographic has defined the ocean (pictured) as being bound by the current around Antarctica – with a northernmost range up to 60 degrees south
“The Southern Ocean has long been recognized by scientists,” said National Geographic Society geographer Alex Tait in the announcement.
“But because there was never an international agreement, we never officially recognized it. It’s kind of geographic nerd in a way, ”he added.
“We always labeled it, but we labeled it a little differently” [than the other oceans] . This change was the final step and said that we want to recognize them because of their ecological separation. ‘
RE-DRAWING THE MAP
National Geographic has hired a specific geographer to oversee all edits to their maps since the late 1970s.
Mr. Tait has held this position since 2016 – he works with a team of geographers and editors and takes current social and political events and changes into account.
For example, their maps show that the Falkland Islands are controlled by the UK, despite a similar claim made by Argentina.
However, he said “it is important to note” [this is] a mapping policy, not a National Geographic location policy [geopolitical] Disputes. ‘
Minor changes, Mr. Tait explained, happen as often as weekly.
However, major changes – such as the recent marking of the Southern Ocean – are much less common.
National Geographic said that Mr. Tait – who oversees changes to all of the maps they publish – and their map policy committee have been discussing the merits of recognizing the Southern Ocean as a separate body for years.
Previously, they had only categorized the waters around Antarctica as cold, southern foothills of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans.
However, they found that scientists and press representatives are increasingly using the term “Southern Ocean” and making it popular.
Society’s decision to recognize it now is based on recognition of the pronounced and rapid Antarctic circumpolar current that surrounds the southernmost continent.
They also took into account the unique marine ecosystem found in the cold waters of the Southern Ocean.
“Although there is only one interconnected ocean, I congratulate National Geographic on officially recognizing the waters around Antarctica as the Southern Ocean,” said marine biologist and National Geographic Explorer at Large Sylvia Earle.
“Framed by the terribly fast Antarctic circumpolar current, it is the only ocean that touches three other and completely encloses a continent instead of being hugged by them.”
Previously, National Geographic had only categorized the waters around Antarctica as cold, southern foothills of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, although scientists and press representatives increasingly used the term “Southern Ocean”. Pictured: a 2009 National Geographic map of Antarctica, missing the Southern Ocean
The National Geographic Society – which has been issuing world maps since 1915 – publicly announced its new policy yesterday, on the occasion of World Ocean Day. Pictured: a new National Geographic map of the southern hemisphere showing the “new” ocean
“The Southern Ocean has long been recognized by scientists,” said National Geographic Society geographer Alex Tait. “But because there was never an international agreement, we never officially recognized it. It’s kind of geographic nerd in a way, ”he added. Pictured: Argentina Scientific Base, located in Paradise Bay on the Antarctic Peninsula. By this week, it would have been on National Geographic’s maps of the Pacific coast
Mr. Tait said he hoped National Geographic’s new policy on the Southern Ocean will affect how children using maps in schools learn to see the world.
“I think one of the biggest impacts is education. Students learn information about the ocean world through the oceans they study. ‘
“If you don’t include the Southern Ocean, you won’t learn how important it is,” he concluded.
THE SOUTHERN OCEAN – A BODY DEFINED BY CURRENT
Pictured: the Antarctic Circumpolar Current showing branches connected to the global “conveyor belt” of circulation
In contrast to the Arctic, Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans – which are defined by the continents that surround them – the Southern Ocean is instead characterized by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC).
Formed about 34 million years ago, when Antarctica and South America were separated by continental drift, the ACC flows around Antarctica in a fluctuating band that is roughly at a latitude of 60 °, counterclockwise.
Within the current, which extends from the surface to the sea floor, the water is both colder and less salty than the waters of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans.
However, these three bodies feed the ACC, which carries more water than any other current and helps fuel a global circulation known as the “conveyor belt” that is used to carry heat around the globe.
This means that the current has a significant impact on the Earth’s climate – as does the Southern Ocean itself, with the cold, dense water sinking off the coast of Antarctica helping to store carbon in the deep sea.
Pictured: emperor penguins endemic to the southernmost continent
And by surrounding these cool southern waters, the ACC helps keep Antarctica cold – and provides an ecologically unique environment for thousands of species unique to the Southern Ocean.
According to National Geographic Explorer in Residence Enric Sala, the Southern Ocean comprises “unique and fragile marine ecosystems that are home to wonderful marine life such as whales, penguins and seals.”
The ocean also has wider ecological impacts. For example, humpback whales feed on krill off the Antarctic in the summer before migrating north to the warmer climes of Central and South America in the colder winter months.
Some seabirds are also known to migrate to and from the area.
National Geographic hopes their revised maps will help people think differently about the Southern Ocean, thereby promoting its conservation.
Recently, studies have shown that man-made climate change is heating the water moving through the Antarctic Circumpolar Current.
It’s unclear how this will affect the southernmost continent – but experts have found that some of the fastest ice sheet and shelf melts in Antarctica occurred where the ACC is closest to land.