The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of Earth‘s oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south and is bounded by Asia and Australia in the west and the Americas in the east.
The first contact of European navigators with the western edge of the Pacific Ocean was made by the Portuguese expeditions of António de Abreu and Francisco Serrão, via the Lesser Sunda Islands, to the Maluku Islands, in 1512, and with Jorge Álvares’s expedition to southern China in 1513, both ordered by Afonso de Albuquerque from Malacca.
Due to the effects of plate tectonics, the Pacific Ocean is currently shrinking by roughly 1 in per year on three sides, roughly averaging 0.20 sq mi a year. By contrast, the Atlantic Ocean is increasing in size.
This ocean has most of the islands in the world. There are about 25,000 islands in the Pacific Ocean. The islands entirely within the Pacific Ocean can be divided into three main groups known as Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia.
- Location: body of water between the Southern Ocean, Asia, Australia, and the Western Hemisphere
- Total Size: 155.557 million sq km and includes Bali Sea, Bering Sea, Bering Strait, Coral Sea, East China Sea, Gulf of Alaska, Gulf of Tonkin, Philippine Sea, Sea of Japan, Sea of Okhotsk, South China Sea, Tasman Sea, and other tributary water bodies
- Area Comparative: about 15 times the size of the US; covers about 28% of the global surface; almost equal to the total land area of the world
- Coastline: 135,663 km
- Climate: planetary air pressure systems and resultant wind patterns exhibit remarkable uniformity in the south and east; trade winds and westerly winds are well-developed patterns, modified by seasonal fluctuations; tropical cyclones may form south of Mexico from June to October and affect Mexico and Central America; continental influences cause climatic uniformity to be much less pronounced in the eastern and western regions at the same latitude in the North Pacific Ocean; the western Pacific is monsoonal – a rainy season occurs during the summer months, when moisture-laden winds blow from the ocean over the land, and a dry season during the winter months, when dry winds blow from the Asian landmass back to the ocean; tropical cyclones (typhoons) may strike southeast and east Asia from May to December
- Elevation: mean depth: -3,970 m
- Natural Resources: oil and gas fields, polymetallic nodules, sand and gravel aggregates, placer deposits, fish
- Natural Hazards: surrounded by a zone of violent volcanic and earthquake activity sometimes referred to as the “Pacific Ring of Fire”; subject to tropical cyclones in southeast and east Asia from May to December ; tropical cyclones may form south of Mexico and strike Central America and Mexico from June to October; cyclical El Nino/La Nina phenomenon occurs in the equatorial Pacific, influencing weather in the Western Hemisphere and the western Pacific; ships subject to superstructure icing in extreme north from October to May; persistent fog in the northern Pacific can be a maritime hazard from June to December
- Current Environmental Issues: endangered marine species include the dugong, sea lion, sea otter, seals, turtles, and whales; oil pollution in Philippine Sea and South China Sea
- Geography Note: the major chokepoints are the Bering Strait, Panama Canal, Luzon Strait, and the Singapore Strait; the Equator divides the Pacific Ocean into the North Pacific Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean; dotted with low coral islands and rugged volcanic islands in the southwestern Pacific Ocean