Name / Description

Gulf Stream


Currents, Trenches, Ridges, and Streams


Ponce de Leon in 1513

Part of / Flows into

North Atlantic


Runs up off US east coast, then eastward across Atlantic

Additional Notes

warm ocean current of the N Atlantic Ocean, off E North America, bet. 24 degrees N and 42 degrees N. Forms the western and upper limb of the clockwise rotating North Atlantic subtropical gyre and links the westward flowing North Equatorial current with the southward flowing Canary Current.

It was first described (1513) by Spanish explorer Ponce de Le´┐Żn and later mapped by Benjamin Franklin.

The Gulf Stream originates in the Gulf of Mexico, and as the Florida Current, it passes through the Straits of Florida and along the coast of SE U.S., with a breadth of c.50 mi/80 km. North of Cape Hatteras, where it is only 12 miles off-shore,it is separated from the coast by a narrow southern extension of the cold Labrador Current and flows NE into the Atlantic Ocean. Where the warm surface waters of the Gulf Stream meet the cold winds accompanying the Lab. Current, one of the densest concentrations of fog in the world occurs. Parts of the Gulf Stream current are diverted SE, forming the Canary Currents, which carry cooler waters to the Iberian peninsula and NW Africa. An ensuing current, known as the North Atlantic Drift , flows NW and provides temperate, relatively warm waters to W Europe. The Gulf Stream has an average speed of 4 miles per hour but slows down as it widens to the north. At the beginning of the Gulf Stream the water temp. is 80 degrees F; the temp. decreases as the current moves north.

Related Images

Joint production of Benjamin Franklin and whaling cousin John Folger, first printed in 1768, French version.[Image provided by Phil Ricghardson, WHOI]

Ocean currents producing clockwise gyre of water in the North Atlantic between 30 degrees north and 60 degrees north. Consists of the Canry and North Equatorial Currents, plus the Gulf Stream.

NASA map depicting temperature gradients within and along the edges of the Gulf Stream

The British printed version of the Franklin-Folger Gulf Stream Chart (1768)

Related People

Franklin, Benjamin, Ponce de Leon, Juan

Related Water Bodies

Canary Current, North Equatorial Current, North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre