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ATLANTIC
Gulf Stream

 
 

Salinity, temperature, oxygen, light, nutrients, and other environmental factors define ocean habitats in the pelagic realm above the seafloor. These factors are greatly influenced by the Gulf Stream—a current of very warm, salty water that originates in the Gulf of Mexico, flows northward along the East Coast of the United States, and ultimately mixes with the cold waters of the North Atlantic. In some places the Gulf Stream encounters seamounts and other bumps along its path. The Charleston Bump, a submerged area of rocky outcroppings and cliffs, rises high enough above the seafloor to alter with the Gulf Stream’s flow. This interaction of seafloor and current causes turbulence and upwelling that enhances plankton growth, attracting small fish who in turn attract larger predators like swordfish, sailfish, and marlin. Renetly a new invasive species from the Pacific has established itself in the Gulf Stream, the red lionfish, Pterois volitans, a Pacific species with highly venomous spines. This is worrysome because invasive species, such as the lionfish, do not have natural predators in the region and can multiply out of control and displace native fish by competing with them for food and other resources. Beyond influencing the distribution of marine life, the warm Gulf Stream waters can also affect climate in Western Europe and strengthen hurricanes that pass over the Gulf Stream.

 

EXPLORE BY THEME

Climate Change
Exploration and Research
Oceanographic and Bathymetric Features
Pollution

 

LEARN MORE

Gulf Stream on Wikipedia
The Gulf Stream and Climate Change
History of the Gulf Stream
The Gulf Stream Educational Resource
Flow of the Gulf Stream


Satellite image of sea surface temperature (SST). Gulf Stream clearly visible in dark red. Image: IMARS


Lionfish in the Gulf Stream. Photo: NOAA


Fishing for marlin. Image: FWS