Like many people, while in school I learned there were four Oceans on Earth - Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Arctic. In general I think it was described that the currents and the surrounding continents are what divided them into different oceans.

Now there is a Southern (Antarctic Ocean). I thought (when I was taught) that that area was just Southern Pacific and Southern Atlantic, but I'm sort of fuzzy.

How (or why) was it determined the Southern Ocean is an Ocean?

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    $\begingroup$ See definitions section here en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_Ocean $\endgroup$ – farrenthorpe May 22 '18 at 0:58
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    $\begingroup$ I once heard a lovely description of the world's seas (by a polar scientist) as "One ocean with three big estuaries" :-) $\endgroup$ – Semidiurnal Simon May 22 '18 at 14:17
  • $\begingroup$ It's perhaps more of a question for the English Language & Usage site, or perhaps Geography (if there is one). It's really just a naming convention, no different from the people who refuse to accept that Pluto is a planet. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf May 22 '18 at 18:49
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf Maybe, but I understand Pluto being in the Kuiper Belt because it's something with which I'm familiar. The Ocean thing has seemed out of my grasp. $\endgroup$ – Raystafarian May 22 '18 at 21:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Raystafarian: What I'm trying to say is that there really isn't an unambiguous definition of "ocean", it's just a matter of convention. And (as with Pluto) there are always people who want to change the conventions... Or perhaps a better example is that big land mass in the eastern hemisphere: some people say it's two continents, Europe and Asia, others that is one continent, Eurasia. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf May 24 '18 at 17:21

The Southern Ocean does have its own current, the Antarctic Circunmpolar Current.

It helps generate the Circumpolar Deep Water due to density gradients. Ice melts and thus salinity decreases. Differences in salinity are the reason for bulk water movements in the ocean.

Thus the Southern Ocean contributes to cool the Earth.

Geographical criteria may be open for discussion, but oceanographically speaking it is a separate system from its neighbors, the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian.

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    $\begingroup$ I know not... are there exactly five such large separate regions of this distinctiveness? Or do areas like the Arctic or subareas of other oceans have similar uniqueness? $\endgroup$ – JeopardyTempest May 22 '18 at 8:16
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    $\begingroup$ eg philipiness ocean is considered also a separated system, it is a low deep ocean geooogycaly similar to Tethys (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tethys_Ocean) aswell as Mediterranean $\endgroup$ – Universal_learner May 22 '18 at 8:23
  • $\begingroup$ wait philipiness sea has particularities but it is not tethys/mediterranean type. In fact mariana trench in his plate. I think what I remember of my lessons is Indonessian zone was something Tethys type. In oceanography we talk about Mediterranian type seas. Non deep. There you can include Indonessian Sea, Mediterranian and also Artic Sea. $\endgroup$ – Universal_learner May 22 '18 at 9:52
  • $\begingroup$ That zone is realy complicated to study for oceanographists (also then realy interesting) because they are not well known processes being the a connection between Indian and Pacific major systems. It is interesting to take a look at Google Earth. Caribean Sea can be at that list too. $\endgroup$ – Universal_learner May 22 '18 at 10:04

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