The List of the Oceans with data and statistics about surface area, volume, and average depth

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Marta Fava

09 May 2022

Oceans cover about 71% of the Earth’s surface, which is almost three quarters, and, in their vastness and depths, contain 321,003,271 cubic miles* of water, that is 97% of all the water found on our Planet.

Knowing this, it is perfectly understandable that you want to find out all the information and data about our oceans, including their surface area, volume and average depth.

In this ocean literacy article, we will not only look at the list of the oceans, their details and map; we will also learn about the essential role they play in the balance of all life on Earth, and what we can do to protect marine ecosystems and save our oceans from the various threats they are facing.

Keep reading if you want to find out all you need to know about the Ocean!

*A cubic mile is the volume of a cube that measures one mile on each side.

One Global Ocean

Did you know that all the Oceans are actually part of a same huge body of water? This is called the Global Ocean, or just the Ocean.

This massive body of water produces more than half of the oxygen we breathe and it is home to more than 230,000 marine creatures (and more to be discovered as we explore its deepest parts!).

The reality of a single ocean is also proven by the phenomenon of thermohaline circulation (also known as the Global Ocean Conveyor or the Great Ocean Conveyor Belt), which consists in the circulation of seawater around all the oceans, regardless of man-made boundaries, and the replacement of water at depth with water from the surface.

Nonetheless, as we all know, human beings have divided the Ocean based on historical, geographic and cultural factors. Today, there are five recognized Oceans on our planet: the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, the Arctic Ocean and the Southern Ocean.

Historically, the Southern Ocean was not recognized, and in started appearing in maps only after the year 2000. Moreover, some scientific literature only talks about three Major Oceans: Pacific, Atlantic and Indian.

Let’s look at each of the five World Oceans in detail.

The Pacific Ocean

The Pacific Ocean is the largest Ocean on Earth. It is located along the western coast of the United States and stretches to Southeast Asia, the eastern side of Australia, and the west coast of South America.

In the North, the Pacific is connected to the Arctic Ocean, and to the Southern Ocean in the South.

It also connects to the Indian Ocean by the Strait of Malacca and, in the east, to the Atlantic Ocean by the Strait of Magellan.

Its name comes from the fact that Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, during his journey to the Philippines, found it very peaceful.

Despite its name, the Pacific Ocean is not peaceful at all, and it is often slammed by typhoons and hurricanes.

How big is the Pacific Ocean?

The Pacific Ocean covers 165,250,000 square km (63,800,000 sq. mi), which is roughly 46% of Earth’s water surface.

In global, it covers 28% of the planet, which is similar to the sum of all landmasses combined.

How deep is the Pacific Ocean?

This Ocean contains the lowest known point on earth and the deepest part of the Ocean, the Mariana Trench at 10,911 m below sea level.

Seas of the Pacific Ocean

Some of the well-known seas of the Pacific include Celebes Sea, Coral Sea, Sulu Sea, East China Sea, South China Sea, Sea of Japan, Tasman Sea, and Yellow Sea.

The Atlantic Ocean

The Atlantic is the second-largest ocean on our planet and takes its name from Greek mythology: it is the “Sea of Atlas”, a Titan condemned to hold Earth on his shoulders for eternity.

This body of water is found between Africa, Europe, the Americas, the Arctic, and the Southern Ocean.

In the West, the Atlantic extends all the way from North to South America. In the east, it connects to the Pacific Ocean through the Arctic Ocean in the north, and through the Southern Ocean in the South.

Extraordinary human labor created the Panama Canal at the end of the 19th century, which now connects the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans.

The 20° meridian divides the Atlantic from the Indian Ocean in the east.

How big is the Atlantic Ocean?

The Atlantic Ocean is about 106,460,000 square km (41,100,000 sq. mi) in area and its volume is 354,700,000 km³. It covers roughly one-fifth of the Earth’s surface and ​​occupies an elongated, S-shaped basin extending in a north-south direction.

How deep is the Atlantic Ocean?

The lowest point in the Atlantic Ocean is the Milwaukee Deep, in the Puerto Rico Trench, with a depth of 8,376 m (27,480 ft) below sea level. Including the adjacent seas, the Atlantic averages 3,332 m (10,932 ft) deep.

Seas and Gulfs of the Atlantic Ocean

The Atlantic Ocean includes some of the most well-known seas: Baltic Sea, Black Sea, Caribbean Sea, Labrador Sea, Mediterranean Sea, North Sea, Norwegian Sea, almost all the Scotia Sea, and other water bodies. We also find the Davis Strait, Denmark Strait, part of the Drake Passage and the Gulf of Mexico.

The Indian Ocean

The Indian Ocean is the third-largest ocean on the planet. It goes from Africa in the west, to the Southern Ocean, southern Asia in the north and Australia to the east.

Again the 20° east meridian traces a line between the Indian and the Atlantic Ocean and the 147° east meridian separates it from the Pacific Ocean.

In this oceanographic region, currents are controlled by the monsoons. One current flows clockwise north of the Equator, and the other flows counterclockwise, in the southern hemisphere. When the winter monsoon occurs, the currents in the north are reversed.

How big is the Indian Ocean?

The Indian Ocean takes up 70,560,000 sq. km (27,240,000 sq. mi) roughly 19.8% of all the water on Earth’s surface.

Underneath the Indian Ocean is located the convergence of the African, Indian and Antarctic crustal plates.

How deep is the Indian Ocean?

The deepest point of the Indian Ocean is the Java Trench, situated south of Java, in the eastern Indian Ocean; it is approximately 7,725 meters deep.

Seas and Gulfs of the Indian Ocean

The Indian Ocean includes the Andaman Sea, Arabian Sea, Flores Sea, Great Australian Bight, Gulf of Oman, Java Sea, Red Sea, Savu Sea, Timor Sea.

Here we also find the Bay of Bengal, Mozambique Channel, Persian Gulf, Gulf of Aden, and Strait of Malacca.

There are many large rivers flowing into the Indian Ocean: the Zambezi, Arvandrud/Shatt-al-Arab, Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra and the Irrawaddy.

The Arctic Ocean

The Arctic Ocean is not only the smallest ocean in the world, it is also the coldest.

This body of water lies between Europe, Asia, and North America, mostly north of the Arctic Circle.

The Norwegian Current coming from the Atlantic represents its greatest inflow of water, although some also enters from the Pacific through the Bering Strait. In the past, the Arctic Ocean was covered in ice all year round, but this is now changing drastically due to global warming. The melting ice causes salinity and subfreezing temperatures to vary and this affects the whole globe.

Marine life is believed to be scarce in the icy waters of the Arctic Ocean, except in its southerly waters.

How big is the Arctic Ocean?

The area of the Arctic Ocean is 14,056,000 sq. km (5,427,000 sq. mi) which actually makes it smaller than Russia.

How deep is the Arctic Ocean?

The deepest point detected in Arctic waters is 5,502 meters (18,050 feet), but the average depth is only 987 meters (3,240 feet).

Seas and Gulfs of the Arctic Ocean

The Arctic Ocean and its marginal seas include the Chukchi, East Siberian, Barents, Laptev, Kara, White, Greenland, and Beaufort; some oceanographers also include the Bering and Norwegian seas.

The Southern Ocean

The Southern Ocean comes fourth in terms of dimensions and covers approximately one-sixteenth of Earth’s ocean area. This Ocean started to be recognized and accepted only in 2000 by the International Hydrographic Organization. This is because it encircles Antarctica and is actually made up by the portions of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans that surround the continent.

Its narrowest point is the Drake Passage, about 1,000 km (600 miles) wide, between South America and the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.

How big is the Southern Ocean?

The Southern Ocean covers 21,960,000 square km (8,479,000 square miles), and it holds 71,800,000 cubic km (17,226,000 cubic miles) of water.

How deep is the Southern Ocean?

This ocean is predominantly deep water, with an average depth of 3,270 meters; its lowest point is 7,235 m deep, located at the southern end of the South Sandwich Trench, southeast of the island of South Georgia.

A map of the oceans

Here is a map of the five World Oceans we just described, so that you can visualize them and the space they occupy on the Earth’s surface.

Image: Geology.com

The importance of the Oceans for life on Earth

The Ocean is incredibly important for all life on our planet, and not just for the well-being of marine creatures and plants.

For example, as we mentioned above, oceans produce half of the oxygen in our atmosphere, and they absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide, one of the major causes of climate change. The ocean is what we call a carbon sink, which means that it absorbs more CO2 than it releases.

Oceans also regulate the climate by moving heat around the planet: warmer ocean currents move towards the Poles, where they cool and circle back, affecting global weather patterns.

Preserving marine ecosystems and life is therefore of the utmost importance if we want to maintain the balance and reduce the impact of climate change.

Ocean’s ecosystem

The ocean is home to a huge variety of life, and scientists keep discovering new species thanks to the latest technologies.

All these forms of life live in marine ecosystems, which are saltwater environments. Marine ecosystems include the open ocean, the deep-sea ocean, and coastal ecosystems. These all have different characteristics, but they are equally important for the well-being of our planet.

In fact, thoughtfully managing our marine ecosystems is essential if we want to maintain the Global Ocean’s balance.

Recent research shows that reducing pollution and the stresses caused by excess human activities can help increase the resilience of marine species, and therefore preserve their ecosystem and with it the well-being of the Earth’s inhabitants.

Threats

The major threats to marine ecosystem and the ocean are pollution and climate change. These are, of course, interconnected, and they result from human behavior.

By changing our behavior and habits, we can start working towards a more sustainable future and protect our oceans.

What to do to save the Ocean

Let us now look at some strategies we can use to save our oceans.

Implement Change

Experts recommend that the biggest shifts we can work towards as a society are:

  • eliminating coal combustion, which will help reduce ocean bound mercury pollution
  • transitioning away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy;
  • reducing the production and use of single-use plastic to cut the amount of plastic in our environment;
  • Expanding Marine Protected Areas to safeguard critical ecosystems, protect vulnerable fish, and improve human health.

Research & Engagement

Some of the main weapons we can use are research and ocean literacy.

By deepening our understanding of the effects our lives have on the ocean, we can start implementing better policies for all.

Moreover, research can be used to improve pollution monitoring and limit its impact on the planet and our health.

Publishing and spreading the results of research will help improve community engagement, which will in turn benefit the cause of fighting against marine pollution.

Let us start. It is not too late to save the Ocean!

What is Ocean Literacy

Ocean literacy is our capacity to understand how the oceans influence life, and in turn, how we influence the ocean. An ocean-literate person can:

  • Understand essential principles and fundamental concepts relating to the ocean;
  • Communicate about the ocean in a meaningful and informed way;
  • Make informed decisions regarding themes that affect the ocean.

Here are the seven Ocean Literacy principles:

  1. Our planet has one big ocean with many features.
  2. Life in the ocean shapes Earth’s features.
  3. The ocean has a massive influence on weather and the climate.
  4. Oceans made and still makes the Earth habitable.
  5. The ocean is home to a great array of life and ecosystems.
  6. The ocean and human beings are inextricably interconnected.
  7. Great part of the ocean is still unexplored.

Goals of Ocean Literacy

The concept of Ocean Literacy was born for not only educating and informing the public about the importance of oceans, but to foster everyone’s responsible behavior towards the ocean and its resources so that we can work towards a more sustainable future.

The majority of us goes about our lives without being aware of how our actions impact the ocean and its well-being, just as we are unaware of how the ocean impacts ours.

The focus of Ocean Literacy initiatives is to raise the awareness and community engagement for the conservation and restoration of our ocean, its inhabitants and resources to work toward the implementation of sustainable policies worldwide.

References

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/howmanyoceans

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/oceanwater.html

http://oceanliteracy.wp2.coexploration.org/ocean-literacy-framework/

https://www.marinebio.org/oceans/geography/

https://www.britannica.com/story/just-how-many-oceans-are-there

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/theres-a-new-ocean-now-can-you-name-all-five-southern-ocean

https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2021/06/21/how-many-oceans-are-there

https://www.geographyrealm.com/how-many-oceans-are-there/

https://oceanblueproject.org/what-are-the-five-oceans/

https://www.uw360.asia/the-worlds-5-oceans-explained/

https://oceanfdn.org/ocean-and-climate-change/

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