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If you are trying to decide which coast to take while traveling in the US, you might be curious to know which one of the oceans is calmer, Atlantic or Pacific? There are many misconceptions that you may have heard about these two oceans but we’re here to shed some light on them. Does the Pacific Ocean stay true to its name? So which one is calmer and which one is more dangerous? Which one is warmer and which one has better weather? Let’s find out.

The word ‘Pacific’ literally means peaceful and calm but in the case of the Pacific Ocean, nothing could be farther from the truth. When the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans are compared as to which ocean is more dangerous, there is a debatable difference so we know that both can be similarly treacherous at times. The name Pacific can be said to be inaccurate and this misconception started when Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, coined its name after sailing the ocean and fortunately met only favorable winds.

However, is it always the case? How come there are debates regarding this topic? Another assumption that most of us have about the two oceans is that the Pacific Ocean has warmer waters than the Atlantic. The Atlantic is supposed to have cooler waters. But, is this an absolute truth? How come we experience the opposite with warmer waters on the Atlantic shores and cooler waters on the US Pacific coastline?

So, what are the Common Misconceptions About the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans? There are many misconceptions that we know about when we talk about the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans, especially when comparing the two. The Atlantic was named the ‘Sea of Atlas’ for a reason and was even ranked 2nd most dangerous ocean in the world only next to the notorious Indian Ocean. Because of this, it’s easy to assume that the Pacific is calmer and is always peaceful and tranquil. It’s because of its name.

Read on as we shed some light regarding these misconceptions so you can decide which is the right coastline for you to travel.

(By the way, if you’re looking into renting an RV you can check these blogs:)

Which Ocean is More Dangerous: Atlantic or Pacific?

Oregon Sea lion Beach in Pacific Northwest
Oregon Beach in Pacific Northwest

You may already have an idea which of the two oceans, Atlantic and Pacific, are more dangerous. The Atlantic is easily perceived to be more dangerous while the Pacific is supposedly the calmer ocean. However, this is not absolutely true and is extensively debatable amongst seafarers. Although the Atlantic is ranked as the 2nd most dangerous ocean in the world, the Pacific can at times be even more dangerous given some unpredictable weather conditions.

The Pacific Ocean can be more dangerous given that it’s a larger body of water than the Atlantic. Fun fact, the Pacific Ocean covers 30% of the Earth’s surface while the Atlantic Ocean covers the other 20%. Because of this, the Pacific has enough area where waves can build up and swell. It is also more susceptible to climatic changes than bad weather conditions which makes it more unsafe. Unlike with the Atlantic Ocean, although conditions might not even be better, at least, they are more consistent.

Which Ocean is Warmer Atlantic or Pacific?

You might be curious to know which of the two oceans is actually warmer between the Pacific and the Atlantic. Although it’s simple to say that the Pacific is warmer when you think about the tropics; therefore, giving you an impression that the Atlantic is the cooler of the two, it is a bit more complex than that.

Especially when you think about it, the US West Coast has colder waters compared to the US East Coast. So, why is that? There are some arguments surrounding the topic but they can be clearly explained and easier understood when taken from two different contexts.

Which of the Pacific and Atlantic is Warmer Overall?

Overall, the Pacific Ocean is warmer compared to the Atlantic Ocean. One of the reasons for this is because the Pacific Ocean occupies at least three times the wider area than is within the equatorial region compared to what the Atlantic Ocean occupies in the same area. It means that the Pacific is taking more heating from the region, therefore, making the waters warmer.

Another reason is that the Pacific Ocean is bigger. Because of this, it has more time to build up its heat as it moves and circulates. Unlike the Atlantic Ocean, it can complete its cycle at 1/3 of the rate compared to the other ocean.

Why Does the Water Feel Cooler on the West Coast than the East Coast?

Now that we know that the Pacific Ocean, in general, has warmer waters than the Atlantic Ocean, how come we feel that the waters on the West coast are actually cooler than on the East coast? You might think that because the West Coast has the Pacific Ocean, you can enjoy warmer waters compared to the Atlantic waters of the East Coast. But let me share why quite the opposite is happening.

First, let’s understand that ocean waters move and rotate clockwise. At least this is true in the northern hemisphere. The west side of an ocean carries warmer currents. As it moves up north then east (clockwise), the currents become cooler. It becomes warmer again as it travels down south where it is warmest and then back to the west side completing the cycle. This means that the east side of both the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans are warmer than its east side. Their southern borders are warmer than their northern sides.

Because the US is sitting between the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans, the US West Coast is adjoined with the cooler east side of the Pacific Ocean. Therefore, cooler waters can be experienced along its coast. On the other side, The US East Coast is adjoined with the west side of the Atlantic Ocean which carries warmer currents.

How to Have a Safe and Awesome Trip in the Atlantic or Pacific Coast?

If you are ever planning to traverse the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans or just choose which US coast you will be traveling to, you will find these basic safety tips helpful to have an awesome trip. Although we’ve earlier clarified the biggest misconceptions about these two oceans and how they’re affecting the US coastlines, we have to be prepared on what to expect. So how can you have an enjoyable and safe trip?

When at the beach:

  • Strictly obey all beach rules and safety signposts
  • Swim only in designated swimming areas
  • Never swim alone. Always swim with a buddy
  • Know where lifeguards are stationed
  • Children should always have adult supervision
  • Know the current local weather conditions
  • Be cautious and observant of sudden weather changes

When on a boat:

  • Know the current local weather conditions
  • Keenly observe current water conditions
  • Perform safety checks of the boat
  • Navigate along safe routes and avoid dangerous waters
  • Create a detailed emergency plan
  • Any news of unfavorable weather conditions, turn back

Knowing these basic reminders can keep you and your family safe while traveling the US coastlines. It is home to some of the world’s famous beaches and different cultures. Each one of its beaches offers different sceneries and unique experiences. Although, take note, not all the beaches along the coastline are appropriate for swimming and/or sailing so better check with your local guides.

Final Thoughts

Although it is still debatable whether the Pacific is really calmer than the Atlantic, what we can settle with is that both can be as dangerous and treacherous as the other. As long as you are traveling during the right season and with the right weather conditions, you should be able to enjoy a safer sail across one or both of these oceans. However, know that you have to come in more prepared when traversing the Pacific Oceans as it has a more inconsistent weather condition making it just as dangerous.

Now, we know that the Pacific Ocean indeed has warmer waters than the Atlantic Ocean. It is true overall and when taken from a bigger perspective. As true as it may be, the US west coast gets cooler waters than the east coast. We now know that the reason for this is because of how oceans move and circulate their waters carrying warmer currents from its south to west and cooling it down from the north to east. Knowing these, we can now hopefully end this debate once and for all.

So, either you are planning to sail across the Pacific Ocean or the Atlantic Ocean or just simply want to know how different the US West coast is from the US East coast, I hope that you remember some of the safety tips we shared. I hope that you find this information interesting and helpful so you can truly enjoy an amazing trip in the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans or their coastlines.

Whichever you choose to take a trip to and spend precious family time with, do grab some planners and journals from the Etsy Store to help you map out your travels and note down some interesting tidbits.

If you’re looking for some suggestions for your next destination, you can check these blogs:

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    Shauna Kocman founder Family Travel Fever
    Shauna Kocman founder of Family Travel Fever

    Hi, I’m Shauna – Welcome to Family Travel Fever.  We are a large family, that was bitten by the travel bug!  We travel with kids and extended family.  I take the kids by myself sometimes because I don’t mind flying or driving solo with my crew to discover the coolest places.

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