Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Mexico, Gulf of from Merriam-Webster's Geographical Dictionary

Gulf on SE coast of North America; bounded on N by U.S., on E by U.S., Cuba, and Mexico, on S by Mexico, on W by Mexico and U.S.; ab. 600,000 sq. mi. (1,500,000 sq. km.); extends ab. 1000 mi. (1600 km.) E to W and ab. 775 mi. (1250 km.) N to S; max. depth 12,245 ft. (3732 m.) in SW cen. part; connects with Atlantic Ocean through Straits of Florida, and with Caribbean Sea through Strait of Yucatán; important source of fish, offshore oil, and natural gas.


Summary Article: Mexico, Gulf of
from The Columbia Encyclopedia

arm of the Atlantic Ocean, c.700,000 sq mi (1,813,000 sq km), SE North America. The Gulf stretches more than 1,100 mi (1,770 km) from west to east and c.800 mi (1,290 km) from north to south. It is bordered by the southeast coast of the United States from Florida to Texas, and the east coast of Mexico from Tamaulipas to Yucatán. Cuba is near the Gulf's entrance. On Cuba's northern side the Gulf is connected with the Atlantic Ocean by the Straits of Florida; on Cuba's southern side it is connected with the Caribbean Sea by the Yucatán Channel. Warm water from the Caribbean enters the Gulf through the Channel, forms a loop current off the U.S. and Mexican coasts, and then exits through the Straits as the Florida Current, becoming the Gulf Stream.

The Bay of Campeche (Bahía de Campeche), Mexico, and Apalachee Bay, Florida, are the Gulf's largest arms. Sigsbee Deep (12,714 ft/3,875 m), the Gulf's deepest part, lies off the Mexican coast. The shoreline is generally low, sandy, and marshy, with many lagoons and deltas. Chief of the many rivers entering the Gulf are the Mississippi, Alabama, Brazos, and Rio Grande. The U.S. Intracoastal Waterway follows the Gulf's northern coast.

Oil deposits from the continental shelf are tapped by offshore wells, especially near Texas and Louisiana. Most of the U.S. shrimp catch comes from the Gulf Coast; menhaden is also important. The discovery in the 1990s of a large oxygen-depleted "dead zone" off the Louisiana coast raised concerns about the effects of agricultural runoff on the Gulf; the zone has at times encompassed more than 8,000 sq mi (20,700 sq km). The chief Gulf ports are at Tampa and Pensacola, Fla.; Mobile, Ala.; New Orleans; Galveston and Corpus Christi, Tex.; Tampico and Veracruz, Mexico; and Havana, Cuba.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2017

Related Articles


Full text Article INTRODUCTION AND SETTING
Archaeology in America: An Encyclopedia

The Gulf of Mexico is the ninth largest ocean basin in the world. It is bounded on the northeast, north, and northwest by the gulf coast of the...

Full text Article Mexico, Gulf of
Britannica Concise Encyclopedia

Fort Jefferson, part of Dry Tortugas National Park, near Key West, Florida, in the Gulf of Mexico. Credit:© Varina and Jay Patel/Shutterstock.com

Full text Article Florida, Straits of
Merriam-Webster's Geographical Dictionary

also Florida Strait. Channel bet. Florida Keys ( S end of Florida) and N coast of Cuba; ab. 90 mi. (145 km.) wide; connects...

See more from Credo