Ocean Currents- Types, Effects, Ocean Currents UPSC PDF

By K Balaji|Updated : November 16th, 2022

Ocean Currents as the name suggests are the motion of ocean water in a specific direction. The flow of the ocean's stream follows a pattern based on geographic and environmental conditions. This pattern of oceanic streams is being studied in oceanography. Ocean Currents can be classified based on the basis of temperature. There are warm currents and cold currents. The Coriolis effect, wind, gravity, and temperature influence ocean currents.

Ocean currents are one of the crucial topics in regard to the UPSC exam. Candidates preparing for the IAS exam must check the warm and cold ocean currents UPSC list to be well prepared to answer any related questions. This article furnishes the whole cognizance pertaining to the ocean currents, and the details that have been presented herewith.

Table of Content

Meaning of Ocean Currents

Ocean currents are the directional movement of saltwater that is continuous and predictable. It is a large flow of ocean water created and affected by a number of factors. They resemble oceanic river flows. There are various forces and factors are responsible for directing an ocean current, such as-

  • Wind
  • Insulation or Sun Light
  • Water Salinity
  • The Coriolis Effect
  • Gravitational Force

Importance of Ocean Currents

The ocean current is the horizontal movement of the stream of an ocean on a very large scale. The ocean currents are a continuous flow of water covering a large distance.

  • The wind, Coriolis effect, gravity, temperature, etc. play a deciding role in the direction of the flow of ocean currents.
  • These ocean currents are responsible for multiple climatic conditions across the world.
  • The ocean currents mainly carry hot water or cold water. The current flowing from the equator carries warm water while the current flowing from the equator carries cold water.
  • The ocean currents play a very significant role in heat distribution from the poles to the equator.

Types of Ocean Currents

Ocean currents can be differentiated on the basis of their depth. Therefore there are two types of ocean currents-

  • Surface Currents: Surface currents are created by the global wind that gets energy from the Sun. As they trap the heat of the Sun, they transfer this heat to the polar region.
  • Deep-Water Currents: Deepwater ocean currents are caused by changes in the water density which is further due to the variations in temperature and salinity of the water. This phenomenon is also called thermohaline circulation

Warm and Cold Ocean Currents

Ocean Currents can also be categorized based on temperature - Warm and Cold. Questions are often asked pertaining to this topic. The complete details of the warm and cold ocean currents.

  • Warm Ocean Current: The warm currents usually carry water from the equatorial region to the polar region as the cold water present at the poles sinks.
  • Cold Ocean Current: Cold currents mostly flow from the polar regions to the equatorial regions and give a chilling effect to the surrounding land where they pass by.

List of Important Ocean Currents

The details pertaining to the warm and cold water currents have been listed here. You can check here, the regions from where it is originating. Below mentioned is the list of Cold Ocean currents.

Cold Ocean Currents List


Features of Ocean Currents

Kurile or Oya shio Current

North Pacific Ocean

It is rich in nutrients

Humboldt or Peruvian Current

South Pacific Ocean

Characterized by low salinity. 

Falkland Current

South Atlantic Ocean

The segment of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. Also renowned as Malvinas current.

Canary Current

North Atlantic Ocean

Characterized by low salinity. It forms the major sink of the freshwater.

Western Australian Current

Southern Ocean & South Indian Ocean

Renowned as west wind drift

South Indian Ocean Current

South Indian Ocean

The cold current originating from the South Indian ocean

Eastern Greenland Current

Arctic Ocean & North Atlantic Ocean

It is characterized by low salinity

Labrador Current

North Atlantic Ocean

The amalgamation of the cold currents originating from the Labrador and warm from the Gulf stream forms an effective fishing ground.

Northeast Monsoon Current

North Indian Ocean

The route of the Northeast current is through the equator.

Benguela Current

South Atlantic Ocean

Characterized by low salinity possesses a fishing zone. 

California Current

Pacific Ocean

The segment of the Pacific Gyre

Somali Current

West Indian Ocean

Monsoon is a major influencer of the Somali current

Antarctic Circumpolar Current

Southern Ocean

Also renowned as West Wind drift

Here is the list of the warm ocean currents, and the regions from where they are originating.

Warm Ocean Currents List


Features of Ocean Currents

Florida Current

South Atlantic Ocean & Caribbean Sea

Its route is Florida Peninsula

Agulhas Current

South-West Indian Ocean

It flows towards southern direction

Gulf Stream

North Atlantic Ocean

Current motivated by wind stress

South Equatorial Current

Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and the Indian Ocean

The route of the South equatorial current is from east to west

Southwest Monsoon Current

Indian Ocean

It occurs during the monsoon period in the Indian Ocean during June- October

El Nino Current

Central & East-Central Equatorial Pacific

The direction of the flow is eastern

Mozambique Current

Indian Ocean

The route of the flow is towards Mozambique and to the island of Madagascar

Brazilian Current

South Atlantic Ocean

It flows to the coast of Brazil

Norwegian Current

North Sea (Atlantic Ocean) & Barents Sea (Arctic Ocean)

It comprises two Arctic inflows of water

East Australian Current

South-Western Pacific Ocean

This transfers the tropical fauna of the habitats to sub-tropical regions

North Pacific Current

Pacific Ocean

The collide of Kuroshio and Oyashio resulted in the formation of the North Pacific current

Equatorial Counter Current

Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and the Indian Ocean

The location and the route of the Equatoria counter current are in between North and South equatorial currents, the flow of the equatorial current is from west to east.

North Equatorial Current

Pacific Ocean & Atlantic Ocean

The route of the North equatorial current is from East to West

Tsushima Current

Sea of Japan

It flows through the north-eastward segment

Kuroshio Current

Pacific Ocean

Also renowned as Japan current and Black current

Irminger Current

North Atlantic Ocean

Combination of warm and saline waters

Antilles Current

North Atlantic Ocean

The route is northeasterly through the island that segregates the Caribbean sea from the Atlantic ocean

Alaskan Current

North Pacific Ocean

It is a consequence of the Northward part of the Pacific Ocean

Factors Responsible for Ocean Currents

There are certain factors that are responsible for the occurrence and movement of ocean currents, let us explore them all. The factors that influence ocean currents comprise wind, sunlight, and other factors such as salinity.

Wind Cause the Ocean Currents

The wind is the most dominant force for ocean currents. It has been observed that most of the oceanic currents follow the direction of the planetary winds such as trade winds, westerlies, and polar easterlies.

Sunlight Causes the Ocean Currents

Sunlight is the other factor that affects ocean currents in an extensive manner. Sunlight mostly creates two differences: the first one is temperature difference sunlight being direct on the equatorial region heats up the water over there while the other one is salinity difference, where the water in regions away from equators has a low temperature as the sunlight is not direct and intense there.

Salinity and Ocean Currents

The presence of salt in ocean water determines the density of water as more salt content in water will make the water denser while less amount of salt results in less water density.

Coriolis Effects of Ocean Currents

Another very significant force responsible for the movement of ocean currents is the Coriolis force or Coriolis effect. Due to the movement of the earth that is from west to east direction the flow of water from the equator to the poles is never in a straight line.

  • The deflective forces deflect the path of ocean currents, this deflective force is known as the Coriolis effect caused by the rotation of the earth.
  • Because of the Coriolis effect, all the dynamic bodies are deflected in the clockwise direction in the northern hemisphere whereas they will be deflected in the anti-clockwise direction in the southern hemisphere.
  • Similarly, the flow of ocean currents is also deflected in the northern hemisphere in the clockwise direction while in the anti-clockwise direction in the southern hemisphere

Effects of Ocean Currents

The ocean currents impact and contribute to being the major influencer of the climatic patterns, rainfall, in the formation of deserts, fogs etc. Check here the complete list of ocean currents, that has been provided here.

  • Climatic patterns- The warm and cold ocean currents influence climatic conditions. The warm currents influence by surging the temperature of the region whereas the cold currents lower the temperature of the area.
  • Rainfall- The winds over warm currents influence the rainfalls as well and play an instrumental role in cooling the area.
  • Formation of Fog- The congregation of the warm and cold currents can influence in forming of the fog.
  • Formation of Desert- The cold currents are responsible and are an influencer in the formation of deserts.
  • It also influences and affects trade and commerce, by providing directions to the ships.

Ocean Currents UPSC Notes PDF

Ocean current is an essential and unavoidable concept of oceanography in world geography. To understand the oceans and the behavior of oceans it is a must for an aspirant to prepare this topic comprehensively because without understanding oceanography in detail the concepts of world geography cannot be understood. For a comprehensive preparation for the exam, all the fundamentals of world geography ought to be distinct and clear.

Ocean Currents UPSC PDF

To get in touch with the core concepts of the Ocean Currents and other pertaining concepts and bring forth a methodical startegy the candidates can get access to the NCERT Books for UPSC or the UPSC Books. Ocean currents are an extremely important topic with respect to UPSC Prelims and Mains as well.

Ocean Current UPSC Question

The aspirants who are preparing and eyeing the IAS Exam can also check out the UPSC Syllabus and refer to the Geography books for UPSC. The candidates can track the level of their performance by practicing the questions that have been asked in previous years. The candidates can practice the question that has been presented here.

Q.1 Consider the following factors: [UPSC Prelims-2014]

  1. Rotation of the earth
  2. Air pressure and Wind
  3. Density of the Ocean Water
  4. Revolution of the Earth

Which of the above factors influences ocean currents?

  1. 1 and 2
  2. 1,2,3
  3. 1 and 4
  4. 2,3,4

Answer:- Option 2

Q2. Consider the following statements: [UPSC Prelims 2002]

  1. Ocean currents are slow to surface movement of water in ocean
  2. Ocean currents assist in maintaining the earth’s heat balance
  3. Ocean currents are set in motion primarily by prevailing winds
  4. Tropical currents are affected by the configuration of the ocean

Which of the statements are correct?

  1. 1 and 2
  2. 2,3 and 4
  3. 1,3 and 4
  4. 1,2,3 and 4

Answer:- Option 2

Other Important UPSC Notes
Human Development Index UPSC NotesCabinet Mission Plan 1946 UPSC Notes
World Economic Forum UPSC NotesGovernment of India Act of 1919 Notes for UPSC
Indian Independence Act 1947 UPSC NotesGoods and Services Tax (GST) Council Notes for UPSC
Kushan Empire & Dynasty UPSC NotesG20 Summit UPSC Notes
Fundamental Rights UPSC NotesIUCN Notes for UPSC
Indian Council Act 1861 UPSC NotesParticularly Vulnerable Tribal Group PVTG UPSC Notes
Indian History UPSC NotesIndian Economy Notes for UPSC


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FAQs on Ocean Currents

  • Ocean currents can be described as the horizontal motion of oceanic water in the specified direction directed by certain forces and factors. The major types of stratification of ocean currents are surface currents and deep water currents.

  • There are various factors that influence ocean currents including- Wind, Temperature gradient, water salinity, Coriolis effect, gravitational force, etc. The ocean currents also impact and influence various other factors such as rainfall, climatic patterns etc.

  • The ocean currents are very significant for the climatic conditions across the world. These currents maintain the heat distribution in the ocean water and also maintain the water density. The ocean currents influence and impact climatic patterns, rainfall, desert formation, and the formation of fog.

  • The ocean currents are either hot currents of cold currents. The currents flowing from the equatorial region to polar regions contain hot water and are hot ocean currents in nature. While the currents flowing from the polar regions towards the equatorial regions contain cold water and are cold ocean currents

  • The candidates preparing for the UPSC exam can get the complete details of the ocean currents as in the UPSC syllabus. The comprehensive and in-depth knowledge of the topic will lead the candidates toward accomplishing the desired post.

  • The types of ocean currents are surface currents and deep-water currents. The surface ocean currents are formed by global wind energy. Deepwater ocean currents are formed by alterations in the water density.

  • The Coriolis effect of the ocean current is an essential and significant force. In the movement of the Earth, that is from West to East. The deflective forces segregate the path of the ocean currents and hence it is known as the Coriolis effect. The dynamic forces distract the path of the ocean currents and it is caused by the clockwise direction in the Northern Hemisphere.

  • The cold currents play an instrumental role in altering the climate patterns, the Kurile or Oya Shio current originates from the North Pacific ocean. The other examples of cold ocean currents are-

    • Peruvian current
    • Falkland Current
    • Canary Current
    • Western Australian Current
    • South Indian Ocean current
    • Labrador current
    • Eastern current
    • Somali current
  • The warm ocean current influences and impacts rainfall and climate change. The Florida current originates from the South Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean sea. Examples of the warm ocean current are-

    • Agulhas Current
    • Gulf Stream
    • South Equatorial Current
    • Southwest Monsoon Current
    • El Nino Current
    • Mozambique Current
    • Brazilian Current
    • Norwegian Current

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