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Indian Ocean: Location, Facts & History

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Instructor: Amanda Fay
Situated between the Indian subcontinent, Africa, and Australia, the Indian Ocean is the world's warmest and third-largest ocean. Learn about its location, explore its unique water circulation, and discover facts about its recent history. Updated: 10/21/2021

The Indian Ocean

While roughly 70% of Earth is covered by the world's four oceans, the Indian Ocean is the most unique ocean due to its seasonal circulation patterns, warm temperatures, and abundance of oil deposits. In fact, it's the warmest of all the oceans. The Indian Ocean also has been highlighted in the news several times in the last few years beginning with the devastating earthquake and resulting tsunami in 2004, the missing Malaysian Airlines jet thought to be lost somewhere in the Indian Ocean, and lastly regarding the increase in pirate activity in the waters off of Africa in the late 2000s. So, let's learn more about this dynamic ocean!

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  • 0:01 The Indian Ocean
  • 0:43 Location & Circulation
  • 2:06 Recent History
  • 3:22 Lesson Summary
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Location & Circulation

The Indian Ocean is bound on the north by Asia, including the country of India for which it's named, on the west by Africa, and on the east by Indonesia and Australia. It extends southward to the continent of Antarctica. South of the equator, the Indian Ocean circulates in a counter clockwise direction. In the northern portion of the Indian Ocean, however, the monsoon, a seasonal wind reversal found in tropical areas, dominates the circulation patterns. This is the only place in the world where this phenomenon happens!

In the summer, the land heats up more than the ocean, causing surface wind to blow from the cooler ocean onto the warm land. The wind carries moist air from the Indian Ocean in a northeastern direction into India. This pattern brings lots and lots of rain to the Asian continent as water that's evaporated from the ocean gets carried onto land, where it gets released. In the winter, the wind pattern reverses and the land cools and the ocean is now warmer than the land, causing wind to blow southwest from the land as it heads out to sea. Winters are typically associated with clear skies and dry weather in the land areas north of the Indian Ocean. Although the monsoon circulation shift occurs each year, its starting time is highly unpredictable - as is its intensity.

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