Atlantic Ocean Currents

Ocean currents in the Atlantic ocean include the below-given currents:

  • North Equatorial Current (warm)
  • South Equatorial Current (warm)
  • Equatorial Counter Current
  • Gulf Stream (warm)
  • Florida Current (Warm)
  • Canaries Current (Cold)
  • Labrador Current (Cold)
  • Brazilian Current (Warm)
  • Falkland Current (Cold)
  • South Atlantic Drift (Cold)
  • Benguela Current (Cold)

Atlantic Ocean Currents

Equatorial Currents

  • The steady Tradewinds in the region constantly drifts two streams of water from east to west starting from the west coast of Africa.
  • These two currents are called North Equatorial current and South Equatorial current.
  • At the shoulder of north-east Brazil, the protruding land mass splits the South Equatorial Current into Cayenne current which flows along the Guiana Coast and the Brazilian Current which flows southwards along the coast of Brazil.
  • Between the two equatorial currents, is the east-ward flowing equatorial counter current.
  • Since these currents are near the equator, all of them are warm currents.

North Atlantic Ocean

Cayenne Current

  • In the North Atlantic Ocean, the Cayenne current is joined and reinforced by the North Equatorial Current.
  • This current heads north-westwards as a large mass of equatorial water into the Caribbean sea.
  • This current is further split into two currents: The Florida current and The Gulf Stream.
  • All of these currents are warm currents.

Florida Current

  • One part of the Cayenne current enters the Gulf of Mexico and emerges from the Florida Strait between Florida and Cuba.
  • This is called Florida Current.

Gulf Stream

  • Another part of the Cayenne current heads northwards east of the Antilles as the Gulf Stream.
  • The Gulf stream is one of the strongest ocean currents.

North Atlantic Drift

  • The Gulf Stream is deflected eastwards under the combined influence of the Westerlies and the rotation of the Earth.
  • This reached Europe as the North Atlantic Drift.
  • Since this drift carries warm equatorial water into the high latitudes of Europe, it keeps the coasts of North Sea frost free facilitating suitable conditions for ports.
  • From the North Atlantic, the drift fans out into three directions: eastwards to Britain, northwards to the Arctic, and southwards along the Iberian coast, as the Canaries current.

Canaries Current

  • It flows southwards along the coasts of Europe and Africa, to finally merge with the North Equatorial Current.
  • Since it receives water from the polar regions, it is a cold current.

The flow of all the above currents completes a clockwise circulation in the North Atlantic Ocean. Apart from the clockwise circulation of the currents, there are other currents that flow into the North Atlantic Ocean from the Arctic region like the Labrador current and Irminger Current under the influence of the Polar Easterlies.

Labrador Current

  • This current drifts south-eastwards between West Greenland and Baffin Island of Canada.
  • This current meets the warm Gulf Stream off Newfoundland of Canada.

Irminger Current

  • It is also called East Greenland Current.
  • It flows between Iceland and Greenland and cools the North Atlantic Drift at the point of Convergence.

Sargossa Sea

  • It is an area in the middle of the North Atlantic ocean formed by the currents flowing in the clockwise direction.
  • A large amount of floating sea-weed gathers in this region.
  • It is the only sea on the Earth without a coastline.
  • It is bounded on by :
    • west by the Gulf Stream;
    • north by the North Atlantic Current;
    • east by the Canary Current; and
    • south by the North Atlantic Equatorial Current.

Grand Banks off Newfoundland

  • We know that the regions of a confluence of warm and cold currents are regions conducive to the growth of microorganisms and phytoplankton.
  • These regions form excellent breeding grounds for marine organisms like fish.
  • The Grand Banks off Newfoundland, Canada are formed when the warm Gulf Stream meets the cold Labrador Current.
  • This region is one the richest fishing grounds on Earth.

South Atlantic Ocean

South Atlantic ocean flows in a similar pattern as the North Atlantic OCean but in the counter-clockwise direction. The phenomenon of middle gyre or Sargossa Sea is not so distinctive in the mid-South Atlantic.

Brazilian Current

  • It is formed by the split in the South Equatorial Current at the Cape Sao Roque in Northeast Brazil and hence is a warm current.
  • It travels southwards along the coast of Brazil.
  • Under the influence of Westerlies and the rotation of the earth, it propels eastwards to merge with West Wind Drift as the South Atlantic Current.

South Atlantic Current and Benguela Current

  • On traversing westwards, the current is diverted northwards by the landmass of Africa.
  • It is called Benguela current flowing along the west coast of Africa in the northward direction.
  • Benguela current brings the cold polar waters from the West Wind drift into the tropical latitudes.
  • Both these currents are cold waters.

The Benguela current surges equator wards in the north-westerly direction to merge with South Equatorial current thus completing the anti-clockwise circulation of the South Atlantic Ocean.

The Antarctic Circumpolar Current or the West wind Drift

  • This is a dominant circulation in the Southern Ocean.
  • It flows from West to East in a clockwise direction around the Antartic.
  • The current is circumpolar due to the lack of any landmass connecting with Antarctica.
  • The Antarctic convergence where the cold waters of the Antarctic meet the warm waters of the sub-antarctic is the region of upwelling nutrients.
  • This form excellent regions for the growth of phytoplankton with associated copepods and krill, and resultant foodchains supporting fish, whales, seals, penguins, albatrosses, and a wealth of other species.

Falkland Current

  • A small branch of West wind drift flows between the coast of Argentina and Falkland islands and is called Falkland current.
  • This is a cold current due to polar waters of West wind drift.

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