At times you can reach out and touch the Gulfstream Current just off the Florida Keys

The Gulfstream Current has a lot to do with the great fishing in the Florida Keys. Its waters racing northward and staying at a near constant warm temperature provides a super highway for pelagic and baitfish alike.

It’s part of a clockwise-rotating system of currents in the North Atlantic Ocean and is often referred to as a “river in the ocean,” it’s a river of saltier water.

Its purpose it to carry warm water from the equator to the cold polar regions. It gets its speed from the warm winds at the equator pushing north toward the north pole. As these winds blow across vast areas of open ocean, they pull the water with them. As the waves increase in height, the friction between the wind and waves increases. This causes the water to flow faster. The spin of the earth from west to east causes the currents heading north to curve to the east. Then the cold air from the north pushes the currents south again.

Gulfstream off the East Coast

It makes a loop around the Atlantic Ocean so it’s difficult to say where it begins. Off the coast of Africa it flows westward where it’s called the North Equatorial Current. When it reaches South America it splits into two branches, one flows into the Caribbean then squeezes thru the Yucatan Channel around the west end of Cuba and into the Florida Straits. As it races thru the Florida Straits just south of the Florida Keys it’s traveling at a rate of thirty million cubic meters per second. The other branch flows north and east of the West Indies then back toward Cuba. They reconnect in the Straits of Florida and become the Gulfstream Current.

Its track follows the east coast of the U.S. By the time it reaches Cape Hatteras off North Carolina it has gained more volume and is now moving at eighty million cubic meters per second. This part of the ocean has really strong east winds most all the time. These winds cause huge swirls of warm water to separate from the main current. There are on average twenty two of these warm circular swirls created each year.

Warm water swirl off Gulfstream

North of this area part of the Gulfstream Current turns and flows back south and west. It rejoins the river in the sea on the offshore side of the current off North Carolina and as far south as Florida. This water flowing back into the current increases the volume of water.

When it reaches the Grand Banks, it splits into two different directions. The northbound current is called the North Atlantic Current. This current flows east toward the British Isles. It then turns north and flows past Norway. This water is so warm that it affects the temperatures on the lands it passes near. It causes them to be warmer than they would normally be for that northern latitude.

The other current is the Azores current. It travels east past the Azores Islands then it turns south and back west again as the North Equatorial current. This closes the loop in the clockwise currents that travel around the Atlantic Ocean.

The other current is the Azores current. It travels east past the Azores Islands then it turns south and back west again as the North Equatorial current. This closes the loop in the clockwise currents that travel around the Atlantic Ocean.

The Gulfstream is 40 to 50 miles wide and 2,400 to 3,600 feet deep. It travels fastest at the surface where the average speed is two to four knots, but it’s been recorded moving as fast as eight knots. The temperature stays around 80 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit.

Gulfstream off Florida Keys As it travels further north, it’s getting cooler and evaporating. This causes the water to become saltier. Further north sea ice begins to form this increases the salinity even more. The high salt content allows it to travel into the cold northern regions without freezing. The water is now so heavy that it sinks thru the other layers of warmer water all the way to the bottom.

Ponce de Leon is given the honors of discovering the Gulf Stream Current. In his log he wrote about a current so strong it pushed his ship backwards at a fast speed even though he had strong winds to sail his ship forward.

The Gulfstream Current was used by treasure -laden ships on their voyage home. Storms and hurricanes caused many of these to crash on our reefs and sink taking their treasure to the bottom. This gave rise to a whole new industry in the Florida Keys. It was wrecking . Native Indians first and then later the locals who lived in the Florida Keys would salvage the goods and treasure from the shipwrecks.

The first printed charts of the Gulfstream Current were by Benjamin Franklin and Timothy Folger in 1769-1770. Franklin took temperature readings while sailing in the strong current. He proved that by temperature readings you can know if you’re in or out of the Gulf Stream and also know when you were close to North America. Today we can see the sea surface temperatures on a salellite image to know where it is.

This time of the year in the Florida Keys the Gulfstream Current lays from six to ten miles off the reef. Its color is a deep indigo blue which is different from the water that surrounds it. It frequently has squalls which means violent winds, lightning and driving rain. It carries seventy five times as much water as all the rivers on earth combined. Now that’s a lot of water!

no one deals like we do!



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