Jump to main content.


General Facts about the Gulf of Mexico

Position of Gulf of Mexico on Earth

Location and Size

The Gulf of Mexico, the ninth largest body of water in the world and referred to as the "Mediterranean of the Americas," is located at the southeastern corner of North America. The Gulf is bordered by the United States to the north (Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas), five Mexican states to the west (Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatan), and the island of Cuba to the southeast.

The Gulf region covers approximately 600,000 square miles, measuring approximately 995 miles from east to west, 560 miles from north to south. The marine shoreline from Cape Sable, Florida to the tip of the Yucatan peninsula extends ~ 3,540 miles, with another 236 miles of shore on the northwest tip of Cuba. The U.S. coastline is approximately 1,631 miles; if bays and other inland waters are included, the total shoreline increases to over 16,000 miles in the U.S. alone.

Top of Page


Depth

The Gulf of Mexico basin resembles a large pit with a broad shallow rim. Approximately 38% of Gulf waters are shallow intertidal areas. The waters of the continental shelf (<200 m) and continental slope (200-3000 m) represent 22% and 20% respectively, and abyssal areas deeper than 3,000 m comprise the final 20%. Located in the southwestern quadrant, the Sigsbee Deep is the deepest region of the Gulf of Mexico and contains depths of up to 4,384 m. The mean (average) water depth of the Gulf is ~1,615 m and the basin contains a volume of 2,434,000 cubic kilometers of water (6.43 * 1017 or 643 quadrillion gallons).

Top of Page


Age and Formation

It is thought that the Gulf of Mexico formed approximately 300 million years ago. Many theories exist as to the exact mechanism of formation, but most scientists agree that the Gulf was formed as a result of seafloor subsidence.

Top of Page


Circulation and Currents

Water enters the Gulf through the Yucatan Strait, circulates as the Loop Current, and exits through the Florida Strait eventually forming the Gulf Stream. Portions of the Loop Current often break away forming eddies or 'gyres' which affect regional current patterns. Smaller wind driven and tidal currents are created in nearshore environments. Drainage into the Gulf of Mexico is extensive, covering more than 60% of the United States, and includes outlets from 33 major river systems and 207 estuaries. Additional freshwater inputs originate in Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula, and Cuba.

Top of Page


Resources

The Gulf of Mexico ecosystem provides a wide array of valuable resources to the nations on its shores.

Top of Page


Population

The coastal population of the five states of the Gulf of Mexico is projected by the Census Bureau to increase from a total of 44.2 million in 1995 to an estimated 61.4 million in 2025, nearly a 40% increase. Texas and Florida are the most rapidly growing states.

Top of Page


Tourism

The Gulf of Mexico's shores and beaches, offering an ideal location for swimming, sun, and all water sports, supports a $20 billion tourist industry.

Top of Page


Maritime Shipping

The Port of South Louisiana (New Orleans) and the Port of Houston are two of the ten busiest ports in the world by cargo volume. Out of the top ten sea ports in the United States 7 are located on the Gulf of Mexico.

Top of Page


Agriculture

Agricultural production (crops, livestock, and associated products) in the Gulf States totaled nearly $29 billion in 2001 according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Top of Page


GULF FOOTNOTES

Top of Page


References - These links are outside the EPA server.Exit Disclaimer

Top of Page

Gulf of Mexico Program Office
Mail Code: EPA/GMPO
Stennis Space Center, MS 39529-6000
228-688-3726
FAX: 228-688-2709


Local Navigation


Jump to main content.