What is the difference between the sea and the ocean?

Planet Earth, also known as the blue planet, is 70% covered on the surface by oceans. And on our planet Earth, there are four major oceans that all schoolchildren learn in school: the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Glacial Arctic Ocean. The last ocean mentioned is largely caught by ice. But then what is the difference between the sea and the ocean? What defines a sea and an ocean? We’ll explain.

On our planet Earth, there are 5 oceans:

  • The Pacific Ocean
  • The Atlantic Ocean
  • The Indian Ocean
  • The Arctic Ocean
  • The Southern Ocean

There are three main categories of the sea, the first of which concerns open seas, i.e. those that communicate directly with the oceans. They are also called: “border seas”.

  • The Mediterranean Sea
  • The Red Sea
  • The Baltic Sea
  • The Black Sea
  • The Caribbean Sea

The second type of sea is closed or landlocked seas:

  • The Caspian Sea
  • The Aral Sea
  • The Dead Sea

And finally, the third category of sea concerns the seas that are an integral part of the oceans. These are open seas that have a larger body of water: the Yellow Sea which is in the Pacific Ocean and the North Sea in the Atlantic Ocean.

The main criterion: size

If we open little Robert, the definition of the sea of the ocean is exactly the same: “vast expanse of saltwater that covers a large part of the surface of the globe”. There are, however, differences between these bodies of water. Geographers believe that it is only a question of the surface. The oceans are large bodies of saltwater, while the seas are smaller. However, a sea is certainly smaller, but it is still not closed. Let us take the example of the Mediterranean Sea, which is open to the Atlantic Ocean at the level of the Strait of Gibraltar. This is, of course, not the only example. The Baltic Sea, the Black Sea, and the Red Sea are seas that communicate with the oceans. There are also seas that are closed and therefore do not communicate with the oceans. This is the case for three seas. the Caspian Sea, the Aral Sea, and the Dead Sea.

The oceans and seas are defined by conventions that people have decided. It should be noted that the term “ocean” became official only at the end of the nineteenth century. Magellan sailed the Pacific Ocean and called it so in calm weather. As for the word sea, it comes from the Latin, mare, and husbands. The term “ocean” comes from the Greek Ôkeanos, a marine deity that symbolized the water surrounding the disk of the Earth. So by definition that humans have fixed, an ocean refers to a large body of saltwater bordered by continents.

The oceans are bordered by continents

It’s not just a big story to differentiate a sea from an ocean. The nature of the coasts, the depth of their bottom, and the salinity (saltwater) of their waters are also factors that differentiate them. As you have understood, the term ocean refers to the largest bodies of saltwater bordered by the continents. The seas are sorted into two main categories. Firstly, there are the border seas, which have long contours of the oceans and are circumscribed by peninsulas, islands, and shoals.

Nevertheless do not make this mistake to conclude that a sea necessarily has a shallow depth. It’s not true. There are seas where the edges are very high. The Coral Sea, which lies between Australia and New Caledonia, for example, is at a maximum of 9,140 m. Naturally, some seas may be located on continental platforms and are therefore shallower than oceanic plates. The depth does not exceed 200 meters: the English Channel and the North Sea are two examples.

You will have understood, to answer this question, there are several criteria that are to be taken into account to differentiate the sea of an ocean, the area, the depth as well as the biodiversity.

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