What are the five oceans of the world?

Environment
Oceans: they rule 72 percent of the Earth's surface | Photo: Shutterstock

Seventy-one percent of Earth's surface is covered with water. The five oceans of the world rule the planet.

Oceans are responsible for the existence of life in our world. Life started in the ocean, and today, more than 230,000 marine species call the sea their home.

Oceans control the Earth's climate and temperature. They balance heat and are crucial for the creation of rainfall.

On average, the five oceans of the world have a salinity of roughly 3.5 percent. However, regions like Mediterranean, the Atlantic, and the Bay of Bengal have higher salinity levels.

The largest ocean in the world - the Pacific Ocean - is ten times bigger than the smallest one - the Arctic Ocean. The Pacific Ocean got its name from Fernão de Magalhães, the Portuguese explorer who organized the first circumnavigation of the Earth.

In 1521, Magalhães - often called Magellan - called it "Mar Pacifico." The Pacific Ocean covers more than 30 percent of the surface of our planet, and it is bigger than the landmass of all continents.

Interestingly, the smallest ocean in the world - the Arctic Ocean - has 25 percent of the planet's undiscovered petroleum resources.

But do you know the name and the size of the world's oceans?

1. The Pacific Ocean | 168,723,000 square kilometers

The Pacific Ocean represents 45 percent of the global ocean coverage. It is also the largest body of water and the single biggest feature on planet Earth.

The widest point in an east-west direction is 19,300 kilometers extending almost halfway around the world - 15,500 kilometers from north to south.

The Pacific is the deepest ocean with an average depth of 4,200 meters, plunging to the unmatched depth of 10,920 meters in the Mariana Trench.

In the winter, the northern half of the North Pacific is raked by high winds of over 55kmh, usually blowing from the west.

These winds can generate sustained seas of over 5m to pound the western shores of North America and Hawaii.

The tropical band of the western North Pacific is under the influence of the Asian Monsoon.

Strong E trades extend to the Equator in January and generate seas of up to 10 feet.

Generally, light winds are experienced in the eastern Equatorial Pacific throughout the year, and wave height is maintained by swell propagation from both the North and South Pacific westerlies.

The South Pacific experiences strong westerlies, flowing between the 35º to 60° mid-latitudes throughout the year.

This broad corridor extending from New Zealand to Cape Horn, reaches maximum activity from June to September, when the S to SW swells primarily affect the central and eastern Pacific.

In the tropics, the trade winds are less extensive and weaker than the North Pacific, so this area relies on long-distance oscillations from the mid-latitude westerlies in either hemisphere.

2. The Atlantic Ocean | 85,133,000 square kilometers

The Atlantic Ocean is the world's second-largest ocean with 22 percent of the global sea area, increasing to 29 percent when the neighboring seas are included.

Bisected by the Equator, the greatest distance from east to west in the North Atlantic is 6,900 kilometers from Morocco to Florida and 6,500 kilometers from Cape Horn to Cape of Good Hope in the South Atlantic.

The average depth is 3,660 meters, and the deepest point is located in the Puerto Rico Trench at 8,648 meters.

The North Atlantic is the windiest and roughest ocean, with strong winter westerlies of over 55 km/h, generating a band of seas greater than 15 feet (5 meters) in the 30º to 60º zone, sending the biggest waves to the eastern shore of the basin.

There is significant seasonal variation with much weaker winds and swells occurring in summer.

The NE trade winds blowing from the sub-tropical highs around 30ºN towards the Equator are sustained throughout the year, but weaker than those in the North Pacific.

An extensive area of light winds or doldrums dominates the equatorial regions apart from a weak SW monsoon that is experienced in the Gulf of Guinea around July.

The South Atlantic is the smallest ocean and is unusual because it has a complete lack of tropical storm activity.

The barrier provided by the Andes produces a slight reduction of strength in the SE trade winds and a marked reduction of waves in the southwest throughout the year.

Overall, the Atlantic trades are the weakest of all oceans.

The five oceans of the world: Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Southern Ocean, and Arctic Ocean

3. The Indian Ocean | 70,560,000 square kilometers

The Indian Ocean occupies 20 percent of the global sea area and is quite similar in size to the Atlantic.

It is located in the Southern hemisphere, with little area located north of the Equator. It is 6,400 kilometers wide at the Equator.

The average depth is 3,897 meters, with the Java Trench bottoming out at 7,725 meters.

The low latitude of the westerly flow can clash with the icy polar easterlies, creating unpredictable and gusty winds.

These winds have the greatest fetch of anywhere on the planet, leading to the term the "Roaring Forties," which produce large ocean swells, resulting in regular "fully arisen seas."

Peak mean waves of over 15 feet (5 meters) are observed in July/August, and unlike the northern hemisphere, the seasonal change is minimal.

The Asian/Australasian monsoon dominates the eastern half of the Indian Ocean throughout summer (Dec-March), when strong NW winds blow throughout Indonesia and northern Australia, while NE winds flow towards India.

In the western half of the Indian Ocean, there is a winter (July) SW monsoon, which reaches its greatest intensity around Somalia (Somalia Jet).

The remainder of the sub-tropical to equatorial zone is mostly influenced by SE trades.

4. The Southern Ocean | 21,960,000 square kilometers

5. The Arctic Ocean | 15,558,000 square kilometers

Seas of the World

People often use the word "sea" to refer to the "ocean" but, technically, both expressions are not interchangeable. An ocean has many seas. Seas are smaller parts of an ocean. So, what are the seas of the world?

Pacific Ocean: Bali Sea, Bering Sea, Bering Strait, Coral Sea, East China Sea, Gulf of Alaska, Gulf of Tonkin, Philippine Sea, Sea of Japan, Sea of Okhotsk, South China Sea, and Tasman Sea;

Atlantic Ocean: Baltic Sea, Black Sea, Caribbean Sea, Davis Strait, Denmark Strait, part of the Drake Passage, Gulf of Mexico, Labrador Sea, Mediterranean Sea, North Sea, Norwegian Sea, and almost all of the Scotia Sea;

Indian Ocean: Andaman Sea, Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal, Flores Sea, Great Australian Bight, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, Java Sea, Mozambique Channel, Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Savu Sea, Strait of Malacca, and Timor Sea;

Southern Ocean: Amundsen Sea, Bellingshausen Sea, part of the Drake Passage, Ross Sea, a small part of the Scotia Sea, and Weddell Sea;

Arctic Ocean: Baffin Bay, Barents Sea, Beaufort Sea, Chukchi Sea, East Siberian Sea, Greenland Sea, Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait, Kara Sea, Laptev Sea, and Northwest Passage;

Discover things you didn't know about the oceans.

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  • Have you ever wondered how a beach is formed? The formation of sand strips is a long process that involves minerals, water, wind, waves, and tides.

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