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Gulf Stream

GULF STREAM

GULF STREAM. A powerful, warm, surface current in the North Atlantic Ocean, east of North America, the Gulf Stream is one of the strongest known currents. It originates in the Gulf of Mexico as the Florida Current, with an approximate temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit, a breadth of no more than fifty miles and a depth of a mile or more. It passes through the Straits of Florida and up along the eastern coast of the United States to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, Canada, driven northward by southwest winds.

As the Gulf Stream reaches Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, the cold Labrador Current that flows from the north separates it from the coast. At this confluence, the warm Gulf Stream waters combine with the cold winds accompanying the Labrador Current, forming one of the densest concentrations of fog in the world. Because of this immense heat transfer, atmospheric storms tend to intensify in this region. Also at this location, the Gulf Stream is split into two currents: the Canary Currents, which are diverted southeast and carry cooler waters to the Iberian Peninsula and northwestern Africa; and the North Atlantic Drift, which flows northwest toward western Europe, providing temperate waters to the western coastal areas of Europe. The water temperature decreases with the northward flow and the breadth of the current spans several hundred miles at its widest. The average speed of the Gulf Stream is four miles per hour, slowing to one mile per hour as the current widens to the north. The Gulf Stream transports as much as 3.99 billion cubic feet of water per second, an amount greater than that carried by all of the world's rivers combined. The current's core, or jet, follows the contours of the continental rise.

The Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León was the first to describe the Gulf Stream in 1513 as he searched for the fountain of youth in what is now Florida. The Gulf Stream played a major role in the settling of southeastern regions of the United States. North America's oldest city, St. Augustine, sits on the coast of eastern Florida where the Gulf Stream flows. It was founded during the Spanish period, fifty years or so after De León's trek. When the United States acquired Florida, land speculators quickly moved in and formed large plantations. Tourism in the region escalated soon after, and continued to thrive in the early 2000s, especially along Florida's Treasure Coast. The Gulf Stream was also popularized in art, as evidenced in Winslow Homer's 1899 painting The Gulf Stream.

Another major contribution of the Gulf Stream is its warming effect on the climates of adjacent land areas that it passes, especially in northern latitudes, where the coastal weather is quite temperate, even in winter. The Gulf Stream is known as a western-boundary current, a current that is located on the western side of every ocean basin. It is part of a clockwise-rotating system of currents in the North Atlantic. The Gulf Stream is the most extensively studied ocean current in the world, but many questions about it remain unanswered.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Groves, Donald G., and Lee M. Hunt. The Ocean World Encyclopedia. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1980.

Mary AnneHansen

See alsoClimate ; Grand Banks ; Oceanography .

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Gulf Stream

Gulf Stream

The Gulf Stream is a well-known, fast, intense, and warm ocean current in the North Atlantic Ocean. Its path goes from the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, along the eastern coast of the United States, heading to the northeast Atlantic Ocean, to the British Isles, and the Norway coasts. This western boundary current is responsible for the mild climate of western Europe , which is located at a much higher latitude than most of New England, but experiences much milder weather .

The origin of the Gulf Stream goes back to the broad, slow, and warm North Equatorial Current under the trade winds, which moves to the west, and when it reaches the Caribbean Sea, its water moves through the Yucatan Channel. Here, it becomes not only narrower, but also gains strength, meandering around the Gulf of Mexico (here it is often referred to as the Loop Current), then exiting the Gulf at the Straits of Florida (here, it is called the Florida Current). Along the east coast of Florida, the current meets the Antilles Current, and the flow, now called the Gulf Stream, runs parallel to the coast until reaching Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, where it moves away from the coast. Around 50 degrees West, it splits into different currents, the largest of which is the North Atlantic Current, which also feeds the northbound Norwegian Current. The Canary Current flows towards the equator on the eastern side of the Atlantic Ocean.

The Gulf Stream also has mesoscale eddies or rings, large, concentric cylinders, reaching deep down in the water, which are usually about 62186 mi (100300 km) in diameter. They appear on both sides of the Gulf Stream, forming as a meandering loop cut off from the current, and can contain both a warm or a cold core. These rings help to maintain the termohaline (temperature and salinity) balance in the ocean basin.

The Gulf Stream not only helps to redistribute heat by carrying warm waters towards the North Pole, but also has a large impact on the climate on land by bringing humid, mild air to the British Isles and Northwest Europe, causing significantly milder winters than at the same latitudes in the West.

See also Ocean circulation and currents

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Gulf Stream

Gulf Stream, warm ocean current of the N Atlantic Ocean, off E North America. It was first described (1513) by Spanish explorer Ponce de León. The Gulf Stream originates in the Gulf of Mexico and, as the Florida Current, passes through the Straits of Florida and along the coast of SE United States with a breadth of c.50 mi (80 km). North of Cape Hatteras, it is separated from the coast by a narrow southern extension of the cold Labrador Current and flows NE into the Atlantic Ocean. Where the warm surface waters of the Gulf Stream meet the cold winds accompanying the Labrador Current, one of the densest concentrations of fog in the world occurs. Parts of the Gulf Stream current are diverted SE, forming the Canary Currents, which carry cooler waters to the Iberian peninsula and NW Africa. An ensuing current, known as the North Atlantic Drift, flows NW and provides temperate, relatively warm waters to W Europe. The Gulf Stream has an average speed of 4 mi (6.4 km) per hr but slows down as it widens to the north. At the beginning of the Gulf Stream the water temperature is 80°F (27°C); the temperature decreases as the current moves north.

See H. Stommel, The Gulf Stream (1977).

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Gulf Stream

Gulf Stream The most important ocean-current system in the northern hemisphere, which stretches from Florida to north-western Europe. It incorporates several currents: the Florida Current; the Gulf Stream itself; and an eastern extension, the North Atlantic Drift. The Florida Current is fast, deep, and narrow, but after passing Cape Hatteras the Gulf Stream becomes less effective at depth and develops a series of large meanders which form, detach, and reform in a complicated manner. After passing the Grand Banks (off Newfoundland) the flow forms the diffuse, shallow, slower-moving North Atlantic Drift. The temperature (18–20°C) and salinity (36 parts per thousand) tend to be seasonally constant, unlike neighbouring coastal water masses.

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"Gulf Stream." A Dictionary of Ecology. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Gulf Stream

Gulf Stream The most important ocean-current system in the northern hemisphere, which stretches from Florida to north-western Europe. It incorporates several currents: the Florida Current, the Gulf Stream itself, and an eastern extension, the North Atlantic Drift. The Florida Current is fast, deep, and narrow, but after passing Cape Hatteras the Gulf Stream becomes less effective at depth and develops a series of large meanders which form, detach, and reform in a complicated manner. After passing the Grand Banks (off Newfoundland), the flow forms the diffuse, shallow, slower-moving N. Atlantic Drift. The temperature (18–20 °C) and salinity (36 parts per thousand) tend to be seasonally constant, unlike neighbouring coastal water masses.

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Gulf Stream

Gulf Stream Relatively fast-moving current of the n Atlantic Ocean. It flows from the straits of Florida, USA, along the e coast of North America, then e across the Atlantic (as the North Atlantic Drift) to the nw European coast. The current warms coastal climates along its course.

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