Our beautiful planet Earth is covered in about 71% water, the rest of it is taken up by landmasses. These large bodies of water are oceans, and one of them is considerably larger than all the rest; the Pacific Ocean. This ocean is massive and holds some of Earth’s most mysterious places. Check out this guide to learn all about our world’s largest ocean.
During launch, the outside of the rocket is covered in a protective fairing, so we couldn’t see outside, but as soon as that was jettisoned, my first view of the earth was over the Pacific Ocean, which was this wonderful deep blue, with clouds just over the top, and sunlight streaming in through the window. – Helen Sharman (first British astronaut to visit the Mir space station)
The Largest Ocean In The World (Pacific Ocean)
The Pacific Ocean accounts for about 50% of Earth’s volume of water. That comes out (roughly) to 170 cubic miles of water. So let’s look at the facts about this massive body of water:
Countries that border the Pacific Ocean
As you can see, and probably guess, there are a lot of countries, and territories, that border the Pacific Ocean.
First, let’s go over the territories that border the Pacific Ocean in alphabetical order:
- American Samoa
- Baker Island
- Cook Islands
- Coral Sea Islands
- Easter Island
- French Polynesia
- Hong Kong
- Howland Islands
- Jarvis Islands
- Johnston Island
- Kingman Reef
- Midway Atoll
- New Caledonia
- Norfolk Island
- Northern Mariana Islands
- Palmyra Atoll
- Pitcairn Islands
- Wallis and Futuna
- Wake Island
Now lets quickly cover the countries that border it in alphabetical order:
- Costa Rica
- El Salvador
- Federated States of Micronesia
- North Korea
- South Korea
- Marshall Islands
- New Zealand
- Papua New Guinea
- Solomon Islands
- United States
As you can clearly see the Pacific Ocean connects all of these countries and territories together. Once cool way to think about the Pacific Ocean connects all of these countries and territories together even though they are extremely far apart and have vastly different cultures.
- Along the equator, the Pacific ocean is tropical and warm throughout the year
- The northern and southern parts of the Pacific ocean can vary depending on the seasons
Because the Pacific ocean is so massive it influences winds quite a bit. The Pacific trade winds are incredibly stable and reliable in the Eastern and Southern Pacific, but once you head more north the winds are considerably less stable and can vary.
In the tropical areas of the Pacific, the El Niño Southern Oscillation can greatly affect weather. El Niño is essentially a warming up of the ocean’s temperature, whereas La Niña is a cooling off of the ocean. El Niño is partnered with high-pressure systems that can bring lots of warm rain storms all along Nothern Peru and Ecuador and can even affect the coast of California with rain and warmer winters. While the western coast of the Pacific is getting quite a large amount of rain, countries like Australia and the Philippines are affected by droughts. Interestingly enough El Niño can also affect hurricanes in the Atlantic ocean.
Geography and Topography
The geography of the Pacific ocean is absolutely incredible.
It is believed that the Pacific ocean formed after the break-up of the supercontinent Pangea. While there is no specific date that we can pinpoint that the Pacific ocean formed, there have been rock records that can be traced as far back as 180 million years. The ocean floor is constantly recycling itself through a process of subduction. Subduction is a geological process where one tectonic plate is subducted (or goes under) another tectonic plate. The Pacific ocean is on the Pacific plate and is subducted in multiple different areas (as seen in the picture below) creating an area called the Ring of Fire.
The Ring of Fire is a term associated with the subduction of the Pacific plate. The ring of Fire is an area in the Pacific Ocean where a large number of earthquakes and volcanoes appear. It is actually in this area where over 90% of all of the world’s earthquakes occur, and it is also where the majority of volcanoes appear as well. When you hear about the major earthquakes in Japan, Indonesia, and even along the West Coast of the United States those are created by these subduction zones and they cause some serious damage. Here is a list of some of the most powerful earthquakes the world has ever seen, all caused by subduction:
- Valdivia Earthquake (Chile 1960)- 9.6
- Alaska earthquake (the United States 1964)- 9.2
- Tohoku earthquake (Japan 2011)- 9.1
- Indian Ocean earthquake (2004)- 9.3
- Chile earthquake (Chile 2010)- 8.8
- Nias-Simeulue (Indosnesia 2005)- 8.6
- Aceh earthquake (Indonesia 2012)- 8.6
These quakes are among the largest earthquakes we have ever seen, and they all occurred in the Pacific Ring of Fire. The power of these areas of the Ring of Fire is absolutely incredible and extremely dangerous. The Ring of Fire also encompasses hotspots in the Pacific plate where new volcanoes appear when magma is forced up creating volcanic islands because the Pacific plate is constantly moving out, so new land ends up forming. The state of Hawaii is actually part of these hotspots, called the Hawaii hotspot. There are currently 4 Hawaiian volcanoes that are active, including Kilauea, Mauna Loa, Eat Molokai, and Hualālai.
The Pacific Ocean also contains the deepest area of any ocean, called the Mariana Trench. The Trench lies near Japan and is 1,500 miles long, 43 miles wide, and 36,000 feet deep. This is deeper than the height of Mount Everest, meaning if you stuck Mount Everest in this Trench is would be over 1 mile underwater. This area is extremely difficult for humans to explore since the pressure is too great to even begin exploring.