Last updated on April 17, 2014 at 9:41 EDT

Caribbean Sea

The Caribbean Sea is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean that is located in the tropics of the Western hemisphere. It’s bordered by Mexico and Central America towards the west and southwest, to the north by the Greater Antilles, to the east by the Lesser Antilles, and towards the south by South America.

The whole area of the Caribbean Sea, the numerous islands of the West Indies, and neighboring coasts, are together known as the Caribbean. The sea is one of the largest seas and has an area of approximately 1,063,000 square miles. The sea’s deepest point is the Cayman Trough, which is between the Cayman Islands and Jamaica, at 25,220 feet below sea level. The coastline has a lot of bays and gulfs: the Gulf of Gonave, Gulf of Darien, Gulf of Venezuela, Golfo de los Mosquitos, Gulf of Paria and Gulf of Honduras.

It’s an oceanic sea that is largely situated on the Caribbean Plate. Some estimates of the sea’s range from 20,000 years to 570 million years. The sea floor is separated into five basins that are divided from each other by underwater ridges and mountain ranges. Atlantic Ocean enters the Caribbean through the Anegada Passage that lies between the Lesser Antilles and Virgin Islands and the Windward Passage that is located between Haiti and Cuba. The Yucatan Channel between Cuba and Mexico links the Gulf of Mexico with the Caribbean. The deepest points in the Cayman Trough reach about 25,220 feet. Despite this fact, the Caribbean Sea is considered a comparatively shallow sea compared to other bodies of water.

The Caribbean plays home to about nine percent of the world’s coral reefs, covering about 20,000 square miles, the majority of which are located off of the Caribbean Islands and the Central American coast.

The weather in the Caribbean is influenced by the Gulf Stream and Humboldt Current ocean currents. The tropical location of the sea aids in the water maintaining a warm temperature ranging from the low of 70 to mid-80 degrees Fahrenheit by the season.

It’s a focal area for many hurricanes within the Western Hemisphere. A sequence of low pressure systems are created off of the West coast of Africa and make their way across the Atlantic Ocean. While the majority of these systems don’t become tropical storms, some do. The tropical storms can be created into Atlantic hurricanes, frequently in the low pressure areas of the eastern Caribbean. The Caribbean hurricane season as a whole lasts from about June through November, with most of the hurricanes occurring during September and August. On average, about 9 tropical storms develop each year, with five reaching the strength of a hurricane. According to the National Hurricane Center, 385 hurricanes have occurred in the Caribbean Sea between 1494 and 1900.

Image Caption: View of Caribbean Ocean from Bodden Town, Grand Cayman Island. Credit: Lhb1239/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Caribbean Sea