Water And Oceanography

Major Subdivisions of the Worlds Oceans



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In oceanography, subdivisions of the world’s oceans refer to defined seas and gulfs that exist within the huge limitless body of waters we call oceans. Oceanographers, however, have differing opinions on the number of oceans that constitute these major subdivisions. Some consider only the Pacific, Atlantic and the Indian oceans as the world’s major subdivisions while others also think there is a case for the Southern and Arctic oceans.

Detailed on the basis of size and depth, these are the major subdivisions of the world’s oceans.

Pacific Ocean

The Pacific Ocean is the largest (on the basis of surface area covered) and the deepest subdivision of the world’s oceans. It covers an area of 165.2 million square kilometers (63.8 million square miles) and takes up nearly 46% of the total surface area occupied by all the oceans of the world.

It is bounded by the Asian continent in the west and the North and South American continents in the east. Its northern and southern portions share boundaries with the Bering Strait and the Southern ocean, which is identified as the fourth major subdivision of the world’s oceans.

The Pacific Ocean, itself, contains smaller subdivisions or seas such as the Celebes Sea, Coral Sea, East China Sea, Philippine Sea, Sea of Japan, South China Sea, Sulu Sea, Tasman Sea, and the Yellow Sea.

Atlantic Ocean

 It is the second largest ocean and occupies an area of 106,400,000 square kilometers (41,100,000 sq mi) and 22.8% of the total surface area of the earth filled with ocean waters with a depth of (30,246 ft) (9,219 meters).

The Atlantic Ocean has as its boundaries the American continents to the west, Eurasia and the African continent in the east. In northern and southern reaches stretch into the Arctic and Southern oceans respectively.

It also contains subdivisions like the Baltic Sea, North Sea, Labrador Sea, Black Sea, Bay of Fundy, Gulf of Maine, Mediterranean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and the Norwegian Sea.

Indian Ocean

It is the third largest subdivision of the world’s oceans, covering approximately 20% of the total area occupied by the oceans of the world. It is largely bounded in the north by the Indian subcontinent, hence its name, and connects with the Southern ocean in the south.

East Africa serves as its western boundary and in the east, the Sunda Islands and Australia.

Some oceanic subdivisions within the area occupied by the Indian Ocean are the Persian Gulf, Rea Sea, Andaman Sea, Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal, Laccadive Sea, Gulf of Manna, and the Gulf of Oman.

Southern Ocean

Also known as the Antarctic Ocean, it covers an area of 7,848,000sqm or 20,327,000sqkm (6.1%) and stretches into the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans in the north. Parts of the Polar Regions in the Antarctica are sometimes considered as its southern boundaries. Its eastern and western boundaries also connect with the other oceans.

The Southern Ocean also contains further subdivisions like the Weddell Sea, King Haakon VII Sea, Cosmonaut Sea and parts of the Scotia Sea.

Arctic Ocean

The Arctic Ocean’s qualification as an oceanic subdivision is debatable as some geographers and oceanographers consider it an extension of the Atlantic Ocean rather than one on its own. The IHO, however, recognizes it as a major subdivision of the world’s oceans.

It is the smallest and covers an area of about 14,056,000 km2 (5,427,000 sq mi), 4.2% of world’s oceans. It is bounded by the land masses of Greenland, several islands, and parts of Europe and Russia.

Like the other oceans, it also contains subdivisions such as Baffin Barents Sea, Beaufort Sea, Chukchi Sea, East Siberian Sea, Hudson Bay, Kara Sea, Laptev Sea and the White Sea.

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