continental shelf


Definition of continental shelf

: a shallow submarine plain of varying width forming a border to a continent and typically ending in a comparatively steep slope to the deep ocean floor

Illustration of continental shelf

Illustration of continental shelf

continental shelf: 1 seashore, 2 continental shelf, 3 continental slope, 4 abyssal plain, 5 seamount

Examples of continental shelf in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Great white sharks on the Atlantic Coast spend their time mostly along the continental shelf and around islands between Newfoundland and Florida, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Michael Ruiz, Fox News, "3,500-pound great white shark pings tracker off North Carolina," 19 Nov. 2020 As described in a paper published in the journal Marine Biology, the researchers discovered that Abaco bonefish traveled from the shore to the nearby edge of the continental shelf—and then dove to nearly 450 feet. Douglas Main, Animals, "This fish lives by the shore but dives deep to spawn, breaking records," 18 Dec. 2020 The waters right near the Gulf Coast along the continental shelf are shallow, and the top layer absorbs a lot of heat during summertime, as the hot sun beats down. Alejandra Borunda, National Geographic, "Tropical storms can sometimes ‘supercharge’ the storms that follow," 9 Oct. 2020 As of December 9, the iceberg was approximately 50 kilometers from the nearest area of continental shelf with a depth of 200 meters, according to Thorpe. Thomas Page, CNN, "Is an iceberg weighing hundreds of billions of tons on a penguin collision course?," 11 Dec. 2020 If the iceberg runs aground on the continental shelf, its disturbance of the seabed could release nutrients too. Thomas Page, CNN, "Is an iceberg weighing hundreds of billions of tons on a penguin collision course?," 11 Dec. 2020 Companies were awarded licenses in 2016 to conduct exploratory drilling in the South and South East Barents Sea, an area on the Norwegian continental shelf spanning about 77 acres where oil and gas fields have recently been built. Isabella Kwai, New York Times, "Norway’s Supreme Court Hears Rights Challenge to Arctic Oil Drilling," 5 Nov. 2020 In the Gulf, the whales tend to stay on the continental shelf, far enough off-shore to avoid most casual boaters, but are not unusual in the deeper parts of the Gulf. Dennis Pillion |, al, "Alabamians get rare glimpse of sperm whale, mysterious giant of the Gulf," 28 Nov. 2020 Greece maintains that islands must be taken into account in delineating a country’s continental shelf, in line with the United Nations Law of the Sea, which Turkey hasn’t signed. Sotiris Nikas,, "Greece Seeks Arms Embargo, Halt to EU-Turkey Customs Union," 20 Oct. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'continental shelf.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of continental shelf

1892, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for continental shelf

Time Traveler

The first known use of continental shelf was in 1892

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Statistics for continental shelf

Last Updated

30 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Continental shelf.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for continental shelf

continental shelf


English Language Learners Definition of continental shelf

technical : the part of a continent that lies under the ocean and slopes down to the ocean floor

More from Merriam-Webster on continental shelf Encyclopedia article about continental shelf

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