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What Is the Gulf Stream?

The Gulf Stream is an ocean current, the most famous ocean current of all. It is like a river that flows through the sea instead of on land. But the Gulf Stream is so vast that it is larger than all the rivers in the world put together!

The Gulf Stream moves northward along the coast of Eastern United States, across the North Atlantic Ocean, and then to northwest Europe. The Gulf Stream has a clear indigo-blue color and it can be seen clearly where it contrasts with the green and gray waters that it flows through.

The water of the Gulf Stream comes from the movement of the surface waters near the Equator in the Atlantic. This movement or “drift” is westward. So the Gulf Stream starts by moving north of South America and into the Caribbean Sea.

It actually becomes what we call the Gulf Stream when it starts moving northward along the east coast of the United States. Since the Gulf Stream starts in the warm part of the world, it is a current of warm water. And the presence of this huge current of warm water makes amazing differences in the climate of many places!

Here are some curious examples of this: Winds passing over this current in northern Europe (where it is called “the North Atlantic Drift”) carry warm air to parts of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, The Netherlands, and Belgium.

Result-they get milder winter temperatures than other places just as far north! It also means that ports along the Norwegian coast are ice-free the year-round. Thanks to the Gulf Stream, London and Paris enjoy mild winter climates, though they lie just as far north as southern Labrador, for example, which has bitterly cold winters.

The winds that pass over the Gulf Stream are made warm and moist. When these winds become chilled, as they do near Newfoundland, dense fog results. And so we have the famous dangerous fogs of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.

The Gulf Stream doesn’t have as great an effect on the winter climate of North America as on Europe, because the winter winds don’t blow over it and then inland, as they do in Europe.

Read: What Is a Whirlpool?