Alaska Current

August 29, 2011, 7:19 pm

The Alaska Current is the eastern limb of the counterclockwise-flowing subpolar gyre in the North Pacific Ocean. The current flows along the coastline of the southern part of the Alaskan Peninsula. This current is concentrated on the shelf region by the freshwater input from Alaskan rivers which enhances the pressure gradient across it. It is strongest in winter with current speeds around 0.3 meters/second and weakest in July and August, when prevailing winds tend to oppose its flow. The Alaska Current is fed by the anti-clockwise momentum of the Alaska Gyre.

The Alaska Current may or may not be distinguished from a western boundary current flowing along the Aleutian Islands that is known as the Alaskan Stream. Both features have previously gone by the name of Aleutian Current. Whether or not the nomenclature makes a distinction, the Alaskan Stream and Current do have distinguishing characteristics. The Current is shallow and highly variable while the Stream is steadier and reaches to the ocean floor. The more barotropic nature of the latter is evidence that it is indeed a product of western boundary current dynamics while the former is in an eastern boundary regime. 

caption Alaska Current. Source: USGS


Further Reading

  • Peter Saundry. 2011. Seas of the world. Topic ed. C.Michael Hogan. Ed.-in-chief Cutler J.Cleveland. Encyclopedia of Earth
  • Richard E. Thomson. On the Alaskan Stream. JPO, 2:363–371, 1972.
  • Matthias Tomczak and J. Stuart Godfrey. Regional Oceanography: An Introduction. Pergamon, 1994.


Baum, S. (2011). Alaska Current. Retrieved from


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