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Philippine Sea

Red dots (or outlines in the high-resolution imagery) indicate MODIS9 detection of thermal anomalies throughout the Philippines on March 29, 2002. In most cases, the anomaly is a fire, for example, all the locations marked on the northernmost island, Luzon. However, south of center, on the southern tip of Negros, the thermal anomaly is likely volcanic activity, and the red dot left of center of the main part of Mindanao (lower right) marks the location of a volcano called Mount Ragang. (Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC)

The Philippine Sea is a section of the western North Pacific Ocean, lying east and north of the Philippines. The sea has a complex and divers undersea relief. The floor is formed into a structural basin by a series of geologic faults and fracture zones. Extended ridges from plate tectonic activity - partly protruding above the water surface forming island arcs - enclose the Philippine Sea to the north, east and south. The Philippine archipelago to the west consists of over 7,100 islands.


The oceanography of the Philippine Sea is dominated by the North Equatorial Current, which hits the Philippine coast from the east. The Kuroshio Current originates in the northeastern part of the Philippine Sea and flowing northward towards Japan and the China Sea.


The regional climate is tropical marine with wet-warm southwest Monsoon from June through October and cold-dry northeast Monsoon from November to March. Third season is the hot and dry spring from March to May.


The Philippine Sea hosts an exotic marine ecosystem. About five hundred species of hard and soft corals occur in the coastal waters and 20 per cent of the worldwide known shellfish species are found in Philippine waters. Sea turtles, sharks, moray eels, octopuses and sea snakes along with numerous species of fish such as tuna can commonly be observed. Additionally, the Philippine Sea serves as spawning ground for Japanese eel, tuna and different whale species.


Major economic branches around the Philippine Sea are agriculture and forestry, fishery, community and public services, sale and trade as well manufacturing. However, uncontrolled deforestation in watershed areas, subsequent soil erosion as well as air and water pollution cause severe environment damages. Increasing water pollution has particular impacts on coastal mangrove swamps, which are important fish breeding grounds.


Long time before Europeans visited Asia, the people form the Philippines were already civilized and well adapted to Malayan traditions enriched by Indian, Chinese and Arabic influences. In 1521, the Portuguese seafarer Ferdinand Magellan - who was in service for the Spanish crown - made the first European contact with the local natives, which was followed by three hundred years of Spanish colonization. At the end of the 19th century, the Philippines declared independence from Spain, which was, however, short-lived, since the Americans then colonized the country for almost 50 years. In 1946, independence was declared also from the USA. The colonial experience from the Spanish and American administration left it's marks on the Philippine religion, language and culture.



The Mariana Trench


Lying close to the eastern boundary of the Philippine Sea, the Mariana Trench is the most prominent sea floor feature of the southwestern North Pacific Ocean. The trench is about 2,500 kilometers long. The average width is 70 kilometers, but in the southwest near the island of Guam the trench reaches a width of roughly 340 kilometers. The deepest portion of the World Ocean known today, the Challenger Deep, reaches 11,034 meter and is located south of Guam in the Mariana Trench.


Submarine trenches are partly long extended, narrow and steep V-shaped depths in the sea floor. The Mariana Trench originates from shoving of the Pacific crust plate under the Philippine plate. This plate tectonic mechanism is called subduction. Subduction also causes severe earthquakes and volcanism driving up chains of islands. In the Mariana subduction zone, the deep earthquake centers monitored define a vertical subducted crust slab stretching from just below the surface towards roughly 660 kilometers depth.


The near bottom water temperature in the Mariana Trench is only a few degrees C above freezing. The deeps of the trench are completely dark. No sunlight penetrates the water down to the bottom. However, there is also some life in the Mariana Trench. Small shrimps, few sea anemones, sea cucumbers, worms and microbes thrive at the bottom.


Most of the deep ocean is under pressures of an equivalent of as much as 300 times the air pressure in automobile tires. In other words, a column of 10,000 tons of seawater presses down on every square meter of the ocean floor in the trench, which is the equivalent to an average-sized man holding up roughly 40 jumbo jets.



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