AMS Style for Geography and Oceanography Terms

Geography Terms

The American Meteorological Society remains neutral with respect to land-based political borders and names or references to land-based locations in AMS journals. However, no borders or territorial boundaries should be shown over oceans and adjacent seas, gulfs, or other oceanic water bodies on figures in AMS publications.

U.S. Regions

  • Corn Belt (not Midwestern Corn Belt)
  • East Coast, Gulf Coast, West Coast (also “U.S. East Coast,” “U.S. Gulf Coast,” etc.)
  • Intermountain West, intermountain region
  • Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, Southwest
  • Midwest (also, “U.S. Midwest”)
  • mid-Atlantic
  • Mid-Atlantic Ridge
  • New England
  • Pacific Northwest
  • the plains, Great Plains, High Plains, northern plains
  • Southern Great Plains (if ARM field measurement site); southern Great Plains (if generic)
  • Northern California, Southern California

World Regions

  • Africa
  • East Africa
  • North Africa
  • West Africa
  • South Africa (the country), southern Africa
  • central Africa
  • Asia
  • central Asia
  • East Asia
  • South Asia
  • Southeast Asia
  • Northeast Brazil (a political division)
  • mainland China, East/North/South China
  • eastern/western Europe (unless referring to post-WWII division of Europe)
  • “the Netherlands”
  • Northern/Southern/Eastern/Western Hemisphere
  • the equator, the tropics, extratropics
  • Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn, Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn
  • international date line; prime meridian
  • the Sierra Nevada (not the Sierra Nevada Mountains)
  • Himalaya Mountains, the Himalayas
  • Continental Divide
  • Iberian Peninsula
  • Maritime Continent
  • Tibetan Plateau, Loess Plateau (China)


  • Gobi Desert
  • Sahara Desert
  • but the California desert


Lowercase unless used as part of a proper-named experiment.

  • Asian summer monsoon
  • Indian monsoon
  • North American monsoon system
  • but North American Monsoon Experiment


Always capitalized.

  • Oklahoma Panhandle
  • Texas Panhandle

Archipelagos, peninsulas

Capitalized when part of proper name.

  • Turku Archipelago
  • Rybalskyi Peninsula

Oceanography Terms

Per the International Thermodynamic Equation Of Seawater—2010 (TEOS-10; see editorial in May 2013 issue of JPO;

  • Conservative Temperature (capitalized, abbreviated Θ)
  • Absolute Salinity (capitalized, abbreviated SA)


  • Amazon basin
  • Nile River basin (river basins all lowercase)
  • Indo-Pacific basin
  • Pacific/Atlantic basins (this includes North/South Pacific/Atlantic basins)
  • All other ocean uses are capped. Examples: Amundsen Basin, Canada Basin, Eurasian Basin, Greenland Basin, Indian Ocean Basin, Madagascar Basin, Markarov Basin, Nansen Basin, Natal Basin, Norwegian Basin, Perth Basin, Somali Basin, Stellwagen Basin (this list is noninclusive)


buoy 248; only permanent, moored buoys are uppercase


Always capitalized if proper name.

  • Deacon cell
  • Equatorial Undercurrent
  • Indonesian Throughflow
  • Kuroshio (not Kuroshio Current)
  • Kuroshio Extension
  • Smith Current
  • subtropical countercurrent
  • Walker circulation
  • (deep) western boundary current (a generic term)

Oceans and Seas

  • North/South Atlantic/Pacific Ocean
  • east(ern)/west(ern) Atlantic/Pacific Ocean
  • north (south) Indian Ocean
  • Southern Ocean
  • World Ocean (but world’s oceans)
  • Nordic seas
  • northern seas
  • Greenland–Iceland–Norwegian (GIN) Seas
  • western/eastern Mediterranean Sea
  • Indonesian Seas (plural)
  • East Sea or Sea of Japan

Water Masses and Mode Waters

Capitalized per AMS Glossary (but note that in general usage, “mode water,” “intermediate water,” and “bottom water” are lowercase).

  • Antarctic Bottom Water
  • Antarctic Intermediate Water
  • Eighteen Degree Water
  • Labrador Sea Water
  • Lower Circumpolar Deep Water
  • Nordic Seas Overflow Water
  • North Atlantic Deep Water
  • Subantarctic Mode Water


  • continental shelf/slope
  • North West shelf
  • New England shelf, etc.

Other Oceanography Terms

  • Capitalize bights and ridges (e.g., Mid-Atlantic Bight, Pacific–Antarctic Ridge)
  • Capitalize gyres and fronts (e.g., South Pacific Gyre, Antarctic Front)
  • Lowercase overflows (e.g., Mediterranean overflow)
  • Agulhas Ring Astrid/Bob/etc.(but Agulhas rings if used generically)
  • Charlie–Gibbs (en dash)
  • Fracture Zone, etc. (all similar North Atlantic bathymetry features are capped)
  • Gulf of Suez, but the gulf
  • Great Whirl
  • Great Salinity Anomaly
  • marginal seas
  • Tidal components are set roman: M2, K1, MSf

Miscellaneous Terms

  • U.S. Navy, but the navy
  • the U.S. Coast Guard, the Coast Guard
  • Above sea level (ASL) will be changed to MSL (above mean sea level; MSL does not have to be expanded)
  • Oscillations are in general capitalized, with some exceptions:
    • Arctic Oscillation
    • El Niño–Southern Oscillation
    • North Atlantic Oscillation
    • Northern Annular Mode/Southern Annular Mode
    • Southern Oscillation
    • Atlantic multidecadal oscillation
    • Madden–Julian oscillation
    • Pacific decadal oscillation
    • quasi-biennial oscillation
    • semiannual oscillation


AMS draws upon the following sources: