For the first time since beginning to make maps more than a century ago, the National Geographic Society said it would recognize theas the world’s fifth .
The nonprofit has previously recognized four oceans: the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian and Arctic.
The Southern Ocean, which surrounds Antarctica, has long been recognized by scientists, but the society’s geographer Alex Taitthat because there was never an international consensus, the National Geographic Society had never officially recognized it.
“I am excited we are taking the step to officially recognize the Southern Ocean as the world’s fifth ocean,” Tait said in an email to Fox News on Thursday. “There is, of course, one interconnected world ocean but it does have regions. Traditionally there have been four regions but the waters around Antarctica form a fifth unique area.”
According to the article, cartographers had deliberated over whether the waters were merely extensions of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans.
Did the frigid body of water have enough defining features to make it an official ocean?
National Geographic says that the Southern Ocean is defined by an approximately 34-million-year-old current called the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC).
The waters inside the ACC, which flows from west to east, are reportedlythan northern ocean waters.
The ACC also transports more water than any other ocean current, drawing in waters from the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans and energizing a global circulation system known as the “conveyor belt.”
The constantly moving system of deep-ocean circulation transports heat around the world,.
In addition, National Geographic noted that cold and dense water that drops to Antarctica’s ocean floor helps to store carbon – a factor in– and that water moving through the ACC is warming.
“We chose to update our Map Policy to identify the Southern Ocean primarily due to its distinct ecological characteristics. This includes the circumpolar currents and winds that isolate Antarctica, the temperature and salinity gradients, and the area’s resulting influence on Earth’s climate,” Tait said, noting that bringing attention to the oceans is an “important part of geography education.”
Another factor to the announcement is the ocean’s “ecologically distinct” environment, withcurrently under the threat of .
“By drawing attention to the Southern Ocean, the National Geographic Society hopes to promote its conservation,” the publication said.
“We hope that by recognizing the Southern Ocean as the earth’s fifth ocean will draw attention to the unique protections urgently needed in this region. This includes but is not limited to its unique and fragile marine ecosystems that are home to magnificent marine life such as whales, penguins, seals, and fish species,” Tait . “As climate changes we need to provide protected areas in all the ocean’s regions, including the Southern Ocean.”
Oceans, comprised of saltwater,and an is found in the ocean.
To date, more than 80% of the world’s ocean has never been mapped or explored.
While the National Geographic Society has been updating its maps for decades, large revisions are uncommon and, generally, the maps follow the International Hydrographic Organization’s (IHO) guidance on marine names.
While the IHO – which works with the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names – recognized the Southern Ocean in 1937,.
Conversely, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names has used the name since 1999.
In February, NOAAthe Southern Ocean as well.