Gulf of Mexico
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Mexico, Gulf of,arm of the Atlantic Ocean, c.700,000 sq mi (1,813,000 sq km), SE North America. The Gulf stretches more than 1,100 mi (1,770 km) from west to east and c.800 mi (1,290 km) from north to south. It is bordered by the southeast coast of the United States from Florida to Texas, and the east coast of Mexico from Tamaulipas to Yucatán. Cuba is near the Gulf's entrance. On Cuba's northern side the Gulf is connected with the Atlantic Ocean by the Straits of Florida; on Cuba's southern side it is connected with the Caribbean Sea by the Yucatán Channel. Warm water from the Caribbean enters the Gulf through the Channel, forms a loop current off the U.S. and Mexican coasts, and then exits through the Straits as the Florida Current, becoming the Gulf StreamGulf Stream,
warm ocean current of the N Atlantic Ocean, off E North America. It was first described (1513) by Spanish explorer Ponce de León. The Gulf Stream originates in the Gulf of Mexico and, as the Florida Current, passes through the Straits of Florida and along the
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The Bay of Campeche (Bahía de Campeche), Mexico, and Apalachee Bay, Florida, are the Gulf's largest arms. Sigsbee Deep (12,714 ft/3,875 m), the Gulf's deepest part, lies off the Mexican coast. The shoreline is generally low, sandy, and marshy, with many lagoons and deltas. Chief of the many rivers entering the Gulf are the Mississippi, Alabama, Brazos, and Rio Grande. The U.S. Intracoastal Waterway follows the Gulf's northern coast.
Oil deposits from the continental shelf are tapped by offshore wells, especially near Texas and Louisiana. Most of the U.S. shrimp catch comes from the Gulf Coast; menhaden is also important. The discovery in the 1990s of a large oxygen-depleted "dead zone" off the Louisiana coast raised concerns about the effects of agricultural runoff on the Gulf; the zone has at times encompassed more than 8,000 sq mi (20,700 sq km). The chief Gulf ports are at Tampa and Pensacola, Fla.; Mobile, Ala.; New Orleans; Houston, Galveston, and Corpus Christi, Tex.; Tampico and Veracruz, Mexico; and Havana, Cuba.
See J. E. Davis, The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea (2017).
Mexico, Gulf of
an almost landlocked sea of the Atlantic Ocean off the southeastern coast of North America, between the Florida and Yucatán peninsulas and the island of Cuba. Area, 1,543 sq km; water volume, 2,332,000 cu km. In the east it is connected with the Atlantic Ocean by the Straits of Florida, and in the south it is connected with the Caribbean by the Yucatán Channel. The Gulf of Mexico has a well-developed basin descending to 5,203 m. The central section is an abyssal plateau with a cluster of underwater hills about 300 m high. On the north, south, and east the plateau is rimmed by shelves up to 250 km wide; the northwestern shelf is rich in oil.
The climate is tropical in the south and subtropical in the north. The air temperature is about 28°C in summer, and in winter it ranges from 14−15°C in the north (sometimes falling to 0°C) to 21−23°C in the south. Evaporation (1,000–1,750 mm) exceeds precipitation (1,000–1,200 mm per year). Hurricanes are frequent in summer and fall. In summer the water temperature is 29°C on the surface and 30−31°C in the shallows; in winter temperatures range from 18°C in the north to 25°C in the south. The salinity of the surface water is generally 36.0–36.9 parts per thousand. At depths of more than 2,000 m, temperature (4.3°C) and salinity (34.98 parts per thousand) are almost constant and equal. The surface currents generally move in a clockwise direction. The Yucatán Current, entering the gulf from the Caribbean Sea, has a speed of 50–200 cm per sec, and the Florida Current, which flows out of the gulf and begins the Gulf Stream, has speeds to 300 cm cu sec and a discharge of 25 million cu m per sec. Tides are primarily diurnal, with heights of 0.3–0.6 m, but semidiurnal and mixed tides also occur. The open sea has little plankton, but it is plentiful on the shelves (1 g per cu m). Fish, chiefly herring and menhaden, oysters, shrimp, lobsters, and turtles are caught on the shelves, and tuna and sharks are caught throughout the gulf. The principal ports are New Orleans (USA), Veracruz (Mexico), and Havana (Cuba).
REFERENCESStommel, H. Gol’fstrim. Moscow, 1963. (Translated from English.) Meksikanskii zaliv. Moscow, 1967.
Harding, J. L., and W. D. Nowlin. “Gulf of Mexico.” The Encyclopedia of Oceanography. New York, 1966.
A. S. POLOSIN