National Geographic announced Tuesday that it is officially recognizing the body of water surrounding the Antarctic as the Earth's fifth ocean: the Southern Ocean, NBC News reported.
National Geographic adds 5th ocean to world map
STEPANAKERT , JUNE 11, ARTSAKHPRESS: The change marks the first time in over a century that the organization has redrawn the world's oceanic maps, which have historically only included four: the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian and Arctic Oceans.
“The Southern Ocean has long been recognized by scientists, but because there was never agreement internationally, we never officially recognized it,” National Geographic Society geographer Alex Tait told the magazine.
“It’s sort of geographic nerdiness in some ways,” Tait said. “We’ve always labeled it, but we labeled it slightly differently [than other oceans]. This change was taking the last step and saying we want to recognize it because of its ecological separation.”
The Southern Ocean stretches from Antarctica's coastline to 60 degrees south latitude, excluding the Drake Passage and the Scotia Sea, according to the National Geographic. The newest body of water makes it the second-smallest, after the Arctic.
The waters encircling the southern continent have distinct ecological characteristics, including its unique current patterns better known as the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, or ACC, according to the magazine.
The ACC makes the waters around Antarctica colder and slightly less salty than those in the north, which helps transport heat around the world and store carbon in the deep ocean — all of which have a crucial impact on the planet, National Geographic reported.