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Gulf the Mexico, Spanish Golfo de México, partly landlocked body of water on the southeastern perimeter of the phibìc American continent. The is associated to the Atlantic s by the Straits that Florida, running between the peninsula that Florida and also the island of Cuba, and also to the Caribbean Sea by the Yucatán Channel, which runs in between the Yucatán Peninsula and also Cuba. Both of these channels are about 100 mile (160 km) wide. The gulf’s greatest east-west and north-south extents are around 1,100 and 800 miles (1,800 and also 1,300 km), respectively, and it consist of an area of some 600,000 square miles (1,550,000 square km). Come the northwest, north, and northeast it is bounded by the southern coast of the united States, while to the west, south, and also southeast it is bounded by the east coast of Mexico.
Physiography and also geology
The Gulf of Mexico is composed of several ecological and also geologic provinces, cook of which are the coastal zone, the continent shelf, the continental slope, and the abyssal plain. The coastal zone consists of tidal marshes, sandy beaches, mangrove-covered areas, and many bays, estuaries, and also lagoons. The continental shelf creates an almost constant terrace approximately the margin the the gulf; its width varies indigenous a best of much more than 200 mile (320 km) to a minimum of about 25 mile (40 km). Off the west shore of Florida as well as off the Yucatán Peninsula, the continental shelf is composed of a vast area composed mainly of carbonate material. The remainder the the shelf is composed of sand, silt, and also clay sediments. On the shelf and also on the slope the dips downward to the abyssal plain, hidden salt domes take place at assorted depths; economically important deposits of oil and natural gas are associated with them. The abyssal plain, which forms the floor of the gulf, consists of a large triangular area close to the centre, bounded through abrupt error scarps towards Florida and the Yucatán Peninsula and also by much more gentle slopes to the north and also west. The basin is person who is abnormal flat, having a gradient the only about 1 foot (0.3 metre) in every 8,000 feet (2,440 metres). The deepest suggest is in the Mexico basin (Sigsbee Deep), i beg your pardon is 17,070 feet (5,203 metres) listed below sea level. Indigenous the floor of the basin rise the Sigsbee Knolls, few of which achieve heights that 1,300 feet (400 metres); these are surface expressions of the buried salt domes.
The southeastern portion of the gulf is traversed by a riverlike existing that i do not care the main resource of the phibìc Atlantic Gulf Stream; this is the principal present moving oceanic waters v the gulf. Water indigenous the Caribbean enters v the Yucatán Channel, the floor the which develops a sill (submarine ridge between basins) at about 1 mile (1.6 km) beneath the surface, and also flows the end in a clockwise direction via the Straits the Florida. Meandering masses of water, called loop currents, break turn off from the key stream and also move clockwise into the northeastern component of the gulf. Both seasonal and also annual variations happen in these loop currents. A much less well-defined pattern exists in the western gulf. Over there the currents are fairly weak, varying appreciably in intensity with season and location. There is extreme variability in both existing direction and also speed ~ above the continent shelf and in the coastal waters that the gulf, where currents room subjected to seasonal and also annual variations led to not only by major circulation fads but likewise by alters in the prevailing wind direction.
The various rivers flowing right into the Gulf that Mexico drainpipe a soil area roughly double that of the gulf, and also the salinity of the gulf is subject to vast variations. In the open gulf the salinity is similar to that of the north Atlantic, around 36 parts per thousand. This proportion, however, different markedly during the year in seaside waters, specifically near the outflow that the vast delta region of the Mississippi River. Throughout periods as soon as the volume the the Mississippi’s circulation is greatest, salinities together low together 14 to 20 components per thousand happen as far as part 20 to 30 miles (30 to 50 km) offshore.
Sea surface temperatures in February vary in between 64 °F (18 °C) in the north gulf and also 76 °F (24 °C) off the Yucatán coast. In the summer, surface temperatures of around 90 °F (32 °C) have actually been measured, but the usual variation is practically the same as that competent in February. Bottom-water temperature of around 43 °F (6 °C) have been recorded close to the northern component of the Yucatán Channel. The thickness that the isothermal layer (a surface layer that water of continuous temperature) varies from about 3 to more than 500 feet (1 to more than 150 metres), depending upon seasonal and also local conditions and on location. The tidal selection is small, averaging much less than two feet in most places; in general, only diurnal tides occur—i.e., one duration of high water and also one of low water during each tidal work (24 hours and also 50 minutes).
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The climate of the gulf an ar varies indigenous tropical to subtropical. Of certain note room the often-devastating hurricanes (tropical cyclones) that strike the an ar nearly every year. The hurricane season officially runs from June 1 come November 30, throughout which time meteorologic and oceanographic problems are conducive because that hurricanes to build anywhere in the gulf. Particularly damaging hurricanes included one in Galveston, Texas, in 1900 and another in and around new Orleans in 2005. Hurricanes spawned in the north Atlantic may additionally move with the gulf at that time, often picking up strength.