Gulf Stream

Surface temperatures in the western North Atlantic. The North American landmass is black and dark blue (cold), while the Gulf Stream is red (warm). Source: NASA

The Gulf Stream, together with its northern extension the North Atlantic Drift, is a warm and swift Atlantic ocean current that originates in the Gulf of Mexico and stretches to the tip of Florida, and follows the eastern coastlines of the United States and Newfoundland before crossing the Atlantic Ocean. The process of western intensification causes the Gulf Stream to be a northward accelerating current off the east coast of North America. At about 40°0′N 30°0′W / 40°0′N 30°0′W / 40.000; -30.000, it splits in two, with the northern stream, the North Atlantic Drift, crossing to Northern Europe and the southern stream, the Canary Current, recirculating off West Africa.

The Gulf Stream influences the climate of the east coast of North America from Florida to Newfoundland, and the west coast of Europe. Although there has been recent debate, there is consensus that the climate of Western Europe and Northern Europe is warmer than it would otherwise be due to the North Atlantic drift which is the northeastern section of the Gulf Stream. It is part of the North Atlantic Gyre. Its presence has led to the development of strong cyclones of all types, both within the atmosphere and within the ocean. The Gulf Stream is also a significant potential source of renewable power generation.[citation needed] The Gulf Stream may be slowing down as a result of climate change.

The Gulf Stream is typically 100 kilometres (62 mi) wide and 800 metres (2,600 ft) to 1,200 metres (3,900 ft) deep. The current velocity is fastest near the surface, with the maximum speed typically about 2.5 metres per second (9 kph; 5.6 mph).

History of the Gulf Stream

Benjamin Franklin's chart of the Gulf Stream published in Philadelphia in 1786

European discovery of the Gulf Stream dates to the 1512 expedition of Juan Ponce de León, after which it became widely used by Spanish ships sailing from the Caribbean to Spain.[1] A summary of Ponce de León's voyage log, on April 22, 1513, noted, "A current such that, although they had great wind, they could not proceed forward, but backward and it seems that they were proceeding well; at the end it was known that the current was more powerful than the wind."[2] Its existence was also known to Peter Martyr d'Anghiera.

Benjamin Franklin became interested in the North Atlantic Ocean circulation patterns. In 1768, while in England, Franklin heard a curious complaint from the Colonial Board of Customs: Why did it take British packets several weeks longer to reach New York from England than it took an average American merchant ship to reach Newport, Rhode Island, despite the merchant ships leaving from London and having to sail down the River Thames and then the length of the English Channel before they sailed across the Atlantic, while the packets left from Falmouth in Cornwall?[3]

Franklin asked Timothy Folger, his cousin twice removed (Nantucket Historical Society), a Nantucket Island whaling captain, for an answer. Folger explained that merchant ships routinely crossed the then-unnamed Gulf Stream—identifying it by whale behavior, measurement of the water's temperature, and changes in the water's color—while the mail packet captains ran against it.[3] Franklin had Folger sketch the path of the Gulf Stream on an old chart of the Atlantic and add written notes on how to avoid the Stream when sailing from England to America. Franklin then forwarded the chart to Anthony Todd, secretary of the British Post Office.[3] Franklin's Gulf Stream chart was printed in 1769 in London, but it was mostly ignored by British sea captains.[4] A copy of the chart was printed in Paris circa 1770-1773, and a third version was published by Franklin in Philadelphia in 1786.[5][6] The inset in the upper left part of the 1786 chart is an illustration of the migration pattern of herring and not an ocean current.

Other Languages
العربية: تيار الخليج
azərbaycanca: Qolfstrim cərəyanı
башҡортса: Гольфстрим
беларуская: Гальфстрым
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Гальфстрым
български: Гълфстрийм
Boarisch: Goifstrom
bosanski: Golfska struja
Чӑвашла: Гольфстрим
čeština: Golfský proud
Deutsch: Golfstrom
Esperanto: Golfa Marfluo
føroyskt: Golfstreymurin
français: Gulf Stream
Frysk: Golfstream
한국어: 멕시코 만류
հայերեն: Գոլֆստրիմ
hrvatski: Golfska struja
íslenska: Golfstraumurinn
עברית: זרם הגולף
ქართული: გოლფსტრიმი
қазақша: Гольфстрим
Kiswahili: Mkondo wa Ghuba
Кыргызча: Гольфстрим
latviešu: Golfa straume
lietuvių: Golfo srovė
македонски: Голфска струја
Nederlands: Golfstroom
नेपाल भाषा: गल्फ स्ट्रीम
norsk nynorsk: Golfstraumen
português: Corrente do Golfo
русский: Гольфстрим
саха тыла: Гольфстрим
slovenčina: Golfský prúd
slovenščina: Zalivski tok
српски / srpski: Голфска струја
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Golfska struja
suomi: Golfvirta
svenska: Golfströmmen
Türkçe: Gulf Stream
українська: Гольфстрім
Tiếng Việt: Hải lưu Gulf Stream
West-Vlams: Golfstrôom