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 (5.6 mph).

History

Benjamin Franklin's map of the Gulf Stream

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 the speed of bubbles on its surface, and changes in the water's color—while the mail packet captains ran against it.[3] Franklin worked with Folger and other experienced ship captains, learning enough to chart the Gulf Stream and giving it the name by which it is still known today. He offered this information to Anthony Todd, secretary of the British Post Office, but it was ignored by British sea captains.[3]

Franklin's Gulf Stream chart was published in 1770 in England, where it was mostly ignored.[4] Subsequent versions were printed in France in 1778 and the U.S. in 1786.[5]

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
Bahasa Indonesia: Gelombang Teluk
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