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Most of us learned about the world’s oceans in elementary school. There is the Pacific, the Atlantic, the Indian and the Arctic.
Now, a radical change is coming.
Thanks to National Geographic, you will soon see a fifth ocean on your maps. It now officially recognizes the Southern Ocean, the waters that revolve around Antarctica, marking the first time the organization has made such a change since it began mapping more than a century ago.
On world oceans day earlier this week, National Geographic announced the distinction, which many scientists and researchers have unofficially recognized for decades..
“Traditionally, there have been four [oceans] defined primarily by land masses, “Alex Tait, a geographer at the National Geographic Society, tells NPR. All things considered. “We think it is important to add this fifth ocean region because it is so unique and because we want to draw attention to all areas of the ocean.”
National Geographic has produced maps, atlases, and globes since 1915. But this is the first time they are drawing up a new map that will reshape the oceans.
The measure is updated with the recognition of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the Southern Ocean in 1999when it got approval from the US Board of Geographic Names.
The change caused a sensation among experts who were already familiar with the area. For example, it caught Cassandra Brooks, an assistant professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, out of place.
“To be completely honest with you, I was quite surprised because I had always thought of the Southern Ocean as its own ocean,” says Brooks. “I think most of the scientists who work there really understand how the Southern Ocean is their thing.”
But the south is special, according to Brooks, who has spent more than 15 years of his career studying Antarctica. It is defined by the powerful Antarctic Circumpolar Current, a critical flow that it claims helps regulate the Earth’s climate.
Brooks says he thinks of the Southern Ocean as “lungs” or “heart.” The ocean is “pumping water through the world’s oceans,” he says.
Both Tait and Brooks hope that this new recognition will create more awareness for a region that is often forgotten.
“Antarctica is so far away that most people don’t think about it on a day-to-day basis. They don’t see how important it is to literally all of our survival,” says Brooks.