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Pacific Ocean Geography

    Location: body of water between Antarctica, Asia, Australia, and the Western Hemisphere

    Geographic coordinates: 0 00 N, 160 00 W

    Map references: World

    Area:
    total: 165.384 million sq km
    note: includes Bali Sea, Bellingshausen Sea, Bering Sea, Bering Strait, Coral Sea, East China Sea, Flores Sea, Gulf of Alaska, Gulf of Tonkin, Java Sea, Philippine Sea, Ross Sea, Savu Sea, Sea of Japan, Sea of Okhotsk, South China Sea, Tasman Sea, Timor Sea, and other tributary water bodies

    Area—comparative: about 18 times the size of the US; the largest ocean (followed by the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Arctic Ocean); covers about one-third of the global surface; larger than the total land area of the world

    Coastline: 135,663 km

    Climate: planetary air pressure systems and resultant wind patterns exhibit remarkable uniformity in the south and east; trade winds and westerly winds are well-developed patterns, modified by seasonal fluctuations; tropical cyclones (hurricanes) may form south of Mexico from June to October and affect Mexico and Central America; continental influences cause climatic uniformity to be much less pronounced in the eastern and western regions at the same latitude in the North Pacific Ocean; the western Pacific is monsoonal—a rainy season occurs during the summer months, when moisture-laden winds blow from the ocean over the land, and a dry season during the winter months, when dry winds blow from the Asian landmass back to the ocean; tropical cyclones (typhoons) may strike southeast and east Asia from May to December

    Terrain: surface currents in the northern Pacific are dominated by a clockwise, warm-water gyre (broad circular system of currents) and in the southern Pacific by a counterclockwise, cool-water gyre; in the northern Pacific, sea ice forms in the Bering Sea and Sea of Okhotsk in winter; in the southern Pacific, sea ice from Antarctica reaches its northernmost extent in October; the ocean floor in the eastern Pacific is dominated by the East Pacific Rise, while the western Pacific is dissected by deep trenches, including the Mariana Trench, which is the world's deepest

    Elevation extremes:
    lowest point: Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench -10,924 m
    highest point: sea level 0 m

    Natural resources: oil and gas fields, polymetallic nodules, sand and gravel aggregates, placer deposits, fish

    Natural hazards: surrounded by a zone of violent volcanic and earthquake activity sometimes referred to as the "Pacific Ring of Fire"; subject to tropical cyclones (typhoons) in southeast and east Asia from May to December (most frequent from July to October); tropical cyclones (hurricanes) may form south of Mexico and strike Central America and Mexico from June to October (most common in August and September); southern shipping lanes subject to icebergs from Antarctica; cyclical El Nino phenomenon occurs off the coast of Peru, when the trade winds slacken and the warm Equatorial countercurrent moves south, killing the plankton that is the primary food source for anchovies; consequently, the anchovies move to better feeding grounds, causing resident marine birds to starve by the thousands because of the loss of their food source; ships subject to superstructure icing in extreme north from October to May and in extreme south from May to October; persistent fog in the northern Pacific can be a maritime hazard from June to December

    Environment—current issues: endangered marine species include the dugong, sea lion, sea otter, seals, turtles, and whales; oil pollution in Philippine Sea and South China Sea

    Environment—international agreements:
    party to: none of the selected agreements
    signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

    Geography—note: the major chokepoints are the Bering Strait, Panama Canal, Luzon Strait, and the Singapore Strait; the Equator divides the Pacific Ocean into the North Pacific Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean; dotted with low coral islands and rugged volcanic islands in the southwestern Pacific Ocean

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Revised 1-Mar-99
Copyright © 1999 Photius Coutsoukis (all rights reserved)