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The Gulf Stream

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The Gulf Stream and Its Influence on Climate and Marine Life

Oceanic Studies 3021
December 8, 2010

Table of Content
Title -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------pg. 1
Table of Contents--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------pg. 2
Abstract--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------pg. 3
Introduction---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------pg. 4
Gulf Stream description-------------------------------------------------------------------------------pg. 4
What causes the Gulf Stream-------------------------------------------------------------------------pg. 4-5
Gulf Stream Features-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------pg. 5
Gulf Stream function------------------------------------------------------------------------------------pg. 6
Influence in the dissemination of seeds & fruits----------------------------------------------------pg.7
Upwelling zone------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------pg. 7
References------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------pg. 9

The Gulf Stream is one of the most significant and influential currents in the world. It changes in temperature over the ocean, varying climate conditions and typical weather of the North Atlantic area. It extends from Florida to the coast of Nova Scotia, moving a hundred miles in a day. This boundary also changes physical and chemical properties of the ocean water. It reaches a depth of up to 2 kilometers. Also, the Gulf Stream is essential to the distribution of marine life in the Atlantic Ocean, supporting enormous amounts of fish population and other marine life. Being able to transfer heat and salt to the subcontinents plays an important role in the poleward. In addition, it helps in the creation and intensification of many of the hurricanes that move all through the Gulf of Mexico.

The Gulf Stream and its Influence on Climate and Marine Life
In 1513, a Spanish navigator, Ponce the Leon announced to the world the first mentioned of the Gulf Stream, which is a very strong, warm current originating in the Caribbean Sea. This current transports warm water toward higher latitudes. Therefore, the hot, tropical currents cause air to move towards the poles in huge convection currents that force the cold polar air back to the equator and cause winds. In this process, the Gulf Stream can influence its change in temperature over the ocean, changing weather patterns and climate conditions of the North Atlantic area. Also, it transports a host of organisms within its margins, providing habitat for plants and marine life.
The Gulf Stream is one of the most dominant and dependable ocean currents in the world. It refers to the current that extends from Florida to the coast of Nova Scotia and continuing to Europe. According to a senior Scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Research, Michael S McCartney, the initial Gulf Stream water temperature is 75 degrees, Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius) off the coast of Florida (Holladay, A., 2008, p. 26). The scientist, Maury, in 1855 said “There is a river in the ocean and like a river the Gulf Stream meanders and cuts its path through a cold North Atlantic Ocean warming the land, creating fog, and transporting heat energy from the tropics to the British Isles” (NORR, n.d. para. 6). The Gulf Stream is transporting seven billion gallons (26 billion liters) of water per second. In addition, it flows at least 55 sv (55 million cubic meter per second), about 300 times the usual flow of the Amazon, the greatest of rivers (Garrison, T., 2010, p. 239).
What causes the Gulf Stream? The sun’s heat is vertical to the Equator, it causes the Gulf Stream to move from hot water to cold waters, and eventually turn back toward the Equator to warm up again. A portion of this branch turns northward towards Gulf of Mexico, flowing out between Cuba and Florida as the Gulf Stream. It is helped by the westerlies, anti-trades winds, and proceeds to North Europe as a warm current. The water temperature in the Gulf Stream can rise into the upper 80’s during summer time, which is higher for moving water, but it can still have a cooling effect if the air temperatures over land would be into the 90’s. The Gulf Stream has its beginnings in the Caribbean Sea coming together from various small passages of water between the islands of Trinidad and Puerto Rico, and joining some water and Windward passages of the Greater Antilles.
Water in the Gulf Stream can move surprisingly a hundred miles in a day, within well-defined boundaries characterized by impressive changes not only in physical properties but in chemical properties as well. These boundaries are relatively narrow, stretching no more than sixty miles in an east-west direction (Ulanski, 2008, p.14). The Western boundary-current is narrow, fast, and deep. It moves at an average speed of 2 miles per second to a depth of more than 450 metro (Garrison, T., 2010, p. 239). While the Gulf Stream crosses the Atlantic, this phenomenon is known as the North Atlantic Drift, and also is known by all sailors for its perfidious seas and strong storms (Lineback, 1990). The heat that is released from the Gulf Stream can transform a small storm into one very strong within a 12 hour period (Ulanski, 2000, p. 25). It originates in the Gulf of Mexico, but it is in the Bahamas that the Gulf Stream is converted in a real powerful storm. The Southern part of the Gulf Stream hits West Africa and recirculates back to the Caribbean Sea, combining with it to form the North Atlantic subtropical gyre. This way, it is preventing the tropics from overheating by moving warm water away from the equator to the European continent and moving cooler water to the tropics (Rose & Laking, 2008, p. 63). Surface ocean currents are influenced globally by the prevailing wind bands, the earth’s rotation and the deflective processes known as the Coriolis effect, the continental and local topography, gravity, and weather events that control heating and cooling, evaporation and precipitation in the top layers (NORR, n.d. para.2).
Different scientific studies show how the climax can be measured depending on the surface of the oceans. They can forecast climax changes and natural calamities in short periods of time. Some examples are cyclones, the current of nutrients and different pollutants, and the circulation of many organisms of the sea. Host of different organisms are transported by the main current. There are some organisms that play an important role providing for the Gulf Stream, they are called drifters. These drifters supply food and shelter for those that are found in deep waters.
The Gulf Stream has supported great fisheries and other marine life. Many species of fish pass through the currents of the Gulf Stream. Species like dolphin, wahoo, and marlin migrate north and south of the currents, others move east and west using the cover of the Sargasso Weed (a living and floating orange colored plant that thrives in center of the Atlantic Ocean) as habitat of their prime food sources. Florida east coast is the zone for many tropical and subtropical species that cross to the south and go back to the north during the summer. Eggs and larvae of numerous Caribbean invertebrates and fish may be carried hundreds or even thousands of miles to settle and raise somewhere else. Also, because its clean waters, teeming and blue, most of the Bahamas archipelagos continue free of industrial development. More than 40 shark species cruise this area, great hammerheads, makos, silkies and nurses. However, the most common are the Caribbean reef tiger, which makes this area particularly attractive for shark species due to the large quantity of nutrients brought in by the Gulf Stream providing suitable nurseries for the shark offspring. The Gulf Stream also influence in the dissemination of terrestrial seeds and fruits. Floating seeds or fruits of tropical terrestrial trees and vines are transported by currents for month over a year from the Caribbean to Northway. Because the Gulf Stream, numerous reef corals and other tropical reef species have spread and are able to survive at the temperature Bermuda latitudes off North Caroline. While it releases heat around the countries of Northern Europe, it dramatically changes the climate, raising its temperature as much as 10 degrees. It allows palm trees to grow in Western Scotland, at latitudes which otherwise would be frozen for considerable parts of the year (Rose and Laking, 2008, p.63).
Fishermen in the Gulf Stream are always looking for large pods of Sargasso or for lines of Sargasso formed by colliding currents. Sea captains of fishing boats know that certain species prefer specific water temperatures which may only occur on the edges of the Gulf Stream’s current as it runs deep and also that when it passes the continental shelf or any other under water rock creates an oxygenated upwelling. “Upwelling is a very important process because this water from within and below the pycnocline is often rich in the nutrients needed by marine organisms for growth” (Garrison, T 2010, p. 244). However, generally poor conditions for growth overcome in most of the open tropical ocean, due to the strong layering isolates deep, nutrient-rich water from the sunlight ocean surface (p.245).
In conclusion, the Gulf Stream, the largest current in the world, transports warm waters towards higher latitudes, moderating influence on the winter climate of North Western Europe, and also, providing habitat for plants and marine’s species. Hence, the mild climate is partly due to waters of these currents. The fluid dynamics of the Gulf Stream are being studied by scientists as an alternative energy source. The warm surface water that is transferred via this current as well as the unexploited kenetic energy of the moving water is attractive to the interest to alternative energy research. Nowadays, there is a concern that the Gulf Stream is weakening and slowing down. If that is the case, it would have a dramatic impact on climate and marine life.

Byatt, A., Fothergill, A. (2001). The Blue Planet: Seas of life. New York, NY: DK Publishing, Ave.
Garrison, T. (2010). Oceanography. Belmont, California, USA: Pre-Press PMG.
Investigating the Ocean Gulf Stream. (n.d.). Retrieved on NORR:
Laking, A. and Rose, P. (2008). Oceans: exploring the hidden depths of the underwater world. Berkely and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.
Ulanski, S (2008). The Gulf Stream: tiny plankton, giant blufin, and the amazing story of the powerful river in the Atlantic. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press.

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