The Geography of the Atlantic Ocean

The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest ocean in the world, encompassing approximately 29 percent of the total water contained on the surface of the Earth. The Atlantic Ocean is delimited by the American continent on the west and Europe and Africa in the east and by the Arctic Ocean on the north and the southern ocean in the south. It borders the Pacific Ocean at the Drake Passage and with the Indian Ocean at Cape Agulhas. The Atlantic Ocean is one of the busiest oceans in the world, with commercial and noncommercial ships navigating it. Some of its most important ports include London, England; Lisbon, Portugal; Montreal, Canada; Naples, Italy; New Orleans, U.S.; New York, U.S.; Helsinki, Finland; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, among many others.


The Atlantic Ocean occupies an S-shaped region of the Atlantic basin that is bordered on the west by North and South America and on the east by the African and European continents. It merges into the Arctic Ocean through the Denmark Straight and the Barents, Norwegian and Greenland seas. In the south, the Atlantic Ocean connects to the Pacific Ocean at the Drake Passage and to the Indian Ocean at Cape Agulhas in Africa. Its southern limit is at the 60° parallel at the Southern Ocean. The Atlantic Ocean covers an area of approximately 82 million square kilometers (31 million square miles). Its average depth is of about 3,926 meters (12,880 feet), with the greatest depth in the Puerto Rico Trench at the Milwaukee Deep, reaching 8,380 meters (27,500 feet). 

Sea floor

One of the most remarkable features of the Atlantic Ocean is the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a submarine mountain ridge, extending 16,100 kilometers (10,000 miles) from Iceland in the north down the middle of the Atlantic to about the Antarctic Circle. Some mountain peaks in the ridge are so high that they rise above the ocean water, forming islands.  The Mid-Atlantic Ridge consists of two divergent tectonic plates where the Earth’s crust is being created, causing the spreading of the sea floor at the rate of 1 to 10 centimeters (0.5 to 4 inches) per year. The deepest region on the Atlantic Ocean is at the Puerto Rico Trench in the north Atlantic, with its deepest point at the Milwaukee Deep, with a depth of 8,380 meters (27,500 feet).


The Atlantic Ocean’s climate is determined by the ocean currents, winds and surface water temperature. The different climatic zones vary with latitude; the warmest zones are found across the Atlantic north of the Earth’s equator, and the coldest zones are those covered by ice on the high latitudes north and south of the equator. The ocean currents affect climate by carrying warm and cold waters to other oceanic latitudes and adjacent continental regions. The Gulf Stream greatly influences the weather in northwestern Europe and the northern Mediterranean. Most hurricanes develop in the southern region of the North Atlantic Ocean.


The Atlantic Ocean is the youngest of the oceans in the world. It is thought that the Atlantic Ocean formed about 130 million years ago when the super continent Pangaea started drifting apart due to sea floor spreading. The spreading of the sea floor in the Atlantic Ocean continues to date at a rate of 1-10 centimeters (0.5-4 inches) per year, at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The Atlantic Ocean has been extensively explored, especially during the 15th century, after Christopher Columbus came to America.  Since that date, many oceanic routes were established between Europe and America. One of the first scientific marine explorations (the Challenger Expedition) occurred in the Atlantic Ocean.

Economically, the Atlantic Ocean is significantly important. The Atlantic Ocean is rich in petroleum and gas deposits and possesses some of the most abundant fishing resources, especially at the region of the continental shelves where fish, including hake, cod, herring, haddock and mackerel, are found. Hurricanes, which usually form in the northern part during the summer and fall season, are a natural threat. According to, the Atlantic Ocean is one of the busiest oceans in the world, with many ships navigating along its waters with varied cargo between the Americas, Africa and Europe.