Geology

The Smallest Ocean

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Science  28 Jun 2002:
Vol. 296, Issue 5577, pp. 2299
DOI: 10.1126/science.296.5577.2299c

The geometry of the Arctic Ocean (depth, seafloor area, volume) has been difficult to determine accurately. Large parts of the Arctic are covered by ice for much of the year, and it has not been nearly as well mapped by satellites and ships as the other oceans. Despite its small size, the circulation and dynamics of the Arctic Ocean have played important roles in Earth's recent climate.

Jakobsson has combined newly declassified submarine data with satellite and sounding data in a new analysis, revealing that the Arctic Ocean and its adjoining seas have extensive continental shelves whose extent is half of the entire basin. This makes the Arctic the shallowest of all of the oceans with a mean depth of only 1201 meters. The extensive shelves indicate that the circulation in the Arctic Ocean is particularly sensitive to worldwide changes in sea level, as have occurred repeatedly during glaciations in the past two to three million years. — BH

Geochem. Geophys. Geosys.3, 10.1029/2001GC000302 (2002).

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