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How many oceans are there in the world?

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We live on a magnificent planet, especially considering how much water it contains. After all, oceans provide a wide range of benefits to our planet and all of its inhabitants. You may not know that the oceans produce more than half of the world's oxygen. It also absorbs fifty times more carbon dioxide than our atmosphere. 70% of our planet is covered by oceans, which means we have more oceans than land!

Although much has been discovered about our oceans, much remains unknown. So, how many oceans are there in the world? You might be surprised to find that there is more to it than you thought.

How many oceans are there in the world?

The world's five oceans are the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Arctic Ocean, Indian Ocean and Southern Ocean.


Technically, there is really only one ocean in the world. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there is only one ocean in the world. However, geographic mapping and political arrangements led to the official recognition of the five oceans. The five oceans are named the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Arctic Ocean and Southern Ocean. Notably, these oceans vary in biodiversity, topography, and other characteristics. The ocean is home to rich flora and fauna. Unique ecosystems define the marine life of each ocean.

Although we now have five oceans, historically there were only four. They are the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean and Arctic. The recent recognition of the Southern Ocean as an ocean has changed that. What is the history behind the Southern Ocean's designation as an ocean? We'll find out soon!

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When and why did the Southern Ocean become an ocean?

In terms of area, the Southern Ocean is the fourth largest ocean in the world.

© demamiel62/Shutterstock.com

About 30 million years ago, Antarctica and South America separated, opening the Drake Passage and forming the Southern Ocean. In 2000, the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), which oversees the naming of water bodies around the world, added the Southern Ocean to its list. Since then, the National Geographic Society has begun recognizing the Southern Ocean around Antarctica in 2021.

Unlike the other four oceans, the Southern Ocean is not bounded by surrounding continents. Instead, it is defined by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC), which flows from west to east and is the dominant feature of the Antarctic region. The waters of the ACC, as well as most of the Southern Ocean, are cooler and less saline than the northern waters. It is precisely because of these that the Southern Ocean can be different. Therefore, it is officially designated as the Fifth Ocean.

Given the addition of the fifth ocean, what really sets each ocean apart? Let's examine each of the 5 oceans in detail and discover their unique characteristics.

The five oceans and how they differ

We give Earth's oceans different names, but they have no boundaries and their waters are constantly mixed by ocean currents.

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As we mentioned earlier, although the ocean is considered one body of water, it is divided into five distinct regions. In addition to their names, each of these oceans has its own unique setting as well as a unique climate. Let's break down the five oceans:

Pacific Ocean

One of the largest oceans on Earth is the Pacific Ocean. About one-third of the Earth's surface is covered by the Pacific Ocean. It occupies an area larger than all the continents combined. The Pacific Ocean is so big that 60% of the world's fish come from it. The Pacific Ocean is a haven for all kinds of fish, including tuna, salmon and snapper. Most of the world's islands are also located in the Pacific Ocean, including Hawaii! It is estimated that there are more than 25,000 islands in the Pacific Ocean. Not only is it the largest ocean in the world, it is also the deepest. The Mariana Trench in the western North Pacific is home to Challenger Deep, the deepest point in the Pacific Ocean.

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indian ocean

Surrounding the Indian Ocean are the three continental blocks of Africa, Asia and Oceania, which surround it from three sides. The monsoon climate prevails in the Indian Ocean region. In summer, hurricanes occur frequently. It's also worth noting that this ocean is also the warmest in the world. A rich ecosystem exists in the region due to the warm tropical waters of the ocean. Rich phytoplankton populations and aquatic flora allow complex food chains to develop. Most fish caught in the Indian Ocean is exported to markets around the world, including tuna and shrimp.


There are relatively few islands in the Atlantic Ocean, but it contains most of the shallow oceans on Earth. It borders four continents: Africa, Europe, North and South America. Among the world's oceans, it is the second shallowest. The Atlantic Ocean covers an area of 85.133 million square kilometers. About 20% of the world's surface is covered by the Atlantic Ocean. Although it is the second largest ocean in the world, it is the second youngest. The salinity of the Atlantic Ocean is between 33 and 37 parts per thousand, making it the most saline ocean in the world.

Arctic Ocean

The Arctic Ocean is one of the smallest, coldest and shallowest of all the world's oceans, located in the Arctic Arctic region of the Northern Hemisphere, which has the coldest climate on Earth. Due to its location in the polar climate zone, the Arctic Ocean is cold all year round. Summer is marked by constant daylight, while winter is engulfed in darkness. The Arctic Ocean is home to four species of whales, including the bowhead, gray, narwhal and beluga. These whales and other species are under considerable threat as the climate continues to warm. Ocean ice sheets are shrinking by an average of 3% per decade due to global warming.

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southern ocean

Antarctica is surrounded by the Southern Ocean. Geographically, it is the southernmost and the fourth of the five oceans. Most of its surface is underwater. Much of this surface lies between 4,000 and 5,000 meters below sea level, much deeper than the bottom of the other five oceans. Despite the lack of land in the north, the Southern Ocean is considered a distinct ocean subdivision because of the varying nature of its waters south of 60° south latitude. Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are home to the emperor penguin, the largest penguin species in the world.


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Volia Nikaci is a freelance writer and content editor with a passion and expertise in content creation, branding and marketing. She has a background in broadcast journalism and political science from CUNY Brooklyn College. When not writing, she enjoys traveling, visiting used bookstores, and hanging out with her significant other.

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