The ARCTIC (/ˈɑːrktɪk/ or /ˈɑːrtɪk/ ) is a polar region
located at the northernmost part of
Earth . The
Arctic consists of the
Arctic Ocean , adjacent seas, and parts of
United States ),
Northern Canada (
Sweden . Land within the
Arctic region has
seasonally varying snow and ice cover , with predominantly treeless
permafrost (permanently frozen underground ice)-containing tundra .
Arctic seas contain seasonal sea ice in many places.
Arctic region is a unique area among Earth's ecosystems. For
example, the cultures in the region and the
Arctic indigenous peoples
have adapted to its cold and extreme conditions. In recent years,
Arctic sea ice decline has been caused by global warming . Life in
Arctic includes organisms living in the ice, zooplankton and
phytoplankton , fish and marine mammals , birds, land animals, plants
and human societies.
Arctic land is bordered by the subarctic .
* 1 Definition and etymology
* 2 Climate
* 3 Flora and fauna
* 3.1 Plants
* 3.2 Animals
* 4 Natural resources
* 5 Palaeontology
* 6 Indigenous population
* 7 International cooperation and politics
* 7.1 Territorial claims
* 7.2 Exploration
* 7.4 Preservation
* 11 See also
* 12 Notes
* 13 References
* 14 Bibliography
* 15 Further reading
* 16 External links
DEFINITION AND ETYMOLOGY
Arctic comes from the Greek word ἀρκτικός
(arktikos), "near the Bear, northern" and that from the word
ἄρκτος (arktos), meaning bear . The name refers either to the
Ursa Major , the "Great Bear", which is prominent in the
northern portion of the celestial sphere , or to the constellation
Ursa Minor , the "Little Bear", which contains
Polaris , the Pole star
, also known as the North Star.
There are a number of definitions of what area is contained within
the Arctic. The area can be defined as north of the
(66° 33'N), the approximate southern limit of the midnight sun and
the polar night . Another definition of the
Arctic is the region where
the average temperature for the warmest month (July) is below 10 °C
(50 °F); the northernmost tree line roughly follows the isotherm at
the boundary of this region.
Climate of the Arctic and
Global warming in the Arctic
The Arctic's climate is characterized by cold winters and cool
summers. Its precipitation mostly comes in the form of snow and is
low, with most of the area receiving less than 50 cm (20 in). High
winds often stir up snow, creating the illusion of continuous
snowfall. Average winter temperatures can be as low as −40 °C
(−40 °F), and the coldest recorded temperature is approximately
−68 °C (−90 °F). Coastal
Arctic climates are moderated by
oceanic influences, having generally warmer temperatures and heavier
snowfalls than the colder and drier interior areas. The
affected by current global warming , leading to
Arctic sea ice
shrinkage , diminished ice in the
Greenland ice sheet , and Arctic
methane release as the permafrost thaws.
Due to the poleward migration of the planet's isotherms (about 35 mi
(56 km) per decade during the past 30 years as a consequence of global
Arctic region (as defined by tree line and temperature)
is currently shrinking. Perhaps the most alarming result of this is
arctic sea ice shrinkage. There is a large variance in predictions of
Arctic sea ice loss, with models showing near-complete to complete
loss in September from 2040 to some time well beyond 2100. About half
of the analyzed models show near-complete to complete sea ice loss in
September by the year 2100.
FLORA AND FAUNA
Arctic life is characterized by adaptation to short growing seasons
with long periods of sunlight, and to cold, dark, snow-covered winter
Arctic vegetation is composed of plants such as dwarf shrubs ,
graminoids , herbs , lichens , and mosses , which all grow relatively
close to the ground, forming tundra . An example of a dwarf shrub is
Bearberry . As one moves northward, the amount of warmth available
for plant growth decreases considerably. In the northernmost areas,
plants are at their metabolic limits, and small differences in the
total amount of summer warmth make large differences in the amount of
energy available for maintenance, growth and reproduction. Colder
summer temperatures cause the size, abundance, productivity and
variety of plants to decrease. Trees cannot grow in the Arctic, but in
its warmest parts, shrubs are common and can reach 2 m (6 ft 7 in) in
height; sedges , mosses and lichens can form thick layers. In the
coldest parts of the Arctic, much of the ground is bare; non-vascular
plants such as lichens and mosses predominate, along with a few
scattered grasses and forbs (like the
Arctic poppy ).
Muskox A snowy owl
Herbivores on the tundra include the
Arctic hare , lemming , muskox ,
and caribou . They are preyed on by the snowy owl ,
Arctic fox ,
Grizzly bear , and wolf . The polar bear is also a predator, though it
prefers to hunt for marine life from the ice. There are also many
birds and marine species endemic to the colder regions. Other
terrestrial animals include wolverines , moose ,
Dall sheep , ermines
Arctic ground squirrels . Marine mammals include seals , walrus
, and several species of cetacean —baleen whales and also narwhals ,
killer whales , and belugas . An excellent and famous example of a
ring species exists and has been described around the arctic circle in
the form of the
Natural resources of the Arctic and Petroleum exploration
Arctic includes sizable natural resources (oil, gas, minerals,
fresh water, fish and if the subarctic is included, forest) to which
modern technology and the economic opening up of
Russia have given
significant new opportunities. The interest of the tourism industry is
also on the increase.
Arctic contains some of the last and most extensive continuous
wilderness areas in the world, and its significance in preserving
biodiversity and genotypes is considerable. The increasing presence of
humans fragments vital habitats. The
Arctic is particularly
susceptible to the abrasion of groundcover and to the disturbance of
the rare breeding grounds of the animals that are characteristic to
the region. The
Arctic also holds 1/5 of the Earth's water supply.
Marine fossils in
Cretaceous time period , the
Arctic still had seasonal
snows, though only a light dusting and not enough to permanently
hinder plant growth. Animals such as the
Chasmosaurus , Hypacrosaurus
Troodon , and
Edmontosaurus may have all migrated north to take
advantage of the summer growing season, and migrated south to warmer
climes when the winter came. A similar situation may also have been
found amongst dinosaurs that lived in
Antarctic regions, such as the
However, others claim that dinosaurs lived year-round at very high
latitudes, such as near the Colville River , which is now at about
70° N but at the time (70 million years ago) was 10° further north.
Circumpolar coastal human population distribution c. 2009
(includes indigenous and non-indigenous). Main article: Circumpolar
peoples Further information:
Indigenous peoples of
Siberia and Inuit
The earliest inhabitants of North America's central and eastern
Arctic are referred to as the
Arctic small tool tradition (AST) and
existed c. 2500 BC. AST consisted of several
including the Independence cultures and
Pre-Dorset culture. The
Dorset culture (
Inuktitut : Tuniit or Tunit) refers to the next
inhabitants of central and eastern Arctic. The
Dorset culture evolved
because of technological and economic changes during the period of
1050–550 BC. With the exception of the
Dorset culture vanished around 1500 AD. Supported by genetic
testing, evidence shows that descendants of the Dorset culture, known
Sadlermiut , survived in Aivilik, Southampton and Coats Islands
, until the beginning of the 20th century.
The Dorset/Thule culture transition dates around the 9th–10th
centuries. Scientists theorize that there may have been cross-contact
of the two cultures with sharing of technology, such as fashioning
harpoon heads, or the Thule may have found Dorset remnants and adapted
their ways with the predecessor culture. Others believe the Thule
displaced the Dorset. By 1300, the
Inuit , present-day Arctic
inhabitants and descendants of Thule culture, had settled in west
Greenland, and moved into east
Greenland over the following century.
Over time, the
Inuit have migrated throughout the
Arctic regions of
Canada, Greenland, Russia, and the United States.
Other Circumpolar North indigenous peoples include the Chukchi ,
Evenks , Inupiat ,
Koryaks , Nenets , Sami , Yukaghir ,
Gwich\'in , and Yupik . The Yupik still refer to themselves as Eskimo
, which means "snowshoe netters", not "raw meat eaters" as it is
sometimes mistakenly translated.
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION AND POLITICS
Arctic cooperation and politics Polar bears on
the sea ice of the
Arctic Ocean , near the
North Pole . USS Honolulu
Arctic nations (Canada,
Greenland 230 mi)
exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off their coasts. Two
Finland and Sweden) do not have direct access to the
Upon ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the
Sea , a country has ten years to make claims to an extended
continental shelf beyond its 200 nautical mile zone . Due to this,
Norway (which ratified the convention in 1996),
Russia (ratified in
Canada (ratified in 2003) and
Denmark (ratified in 2004)
launched projects to establish claims that certain sectors of the
Arctic seabed should belong to their territories.
On 2 August 2007, two Russian bathyscaphes , MIR-1 and MIR-2 , for
the first time in history descended to the
Arctic seabed beneath the
North Pole and placed there a Russian flag made of rust-proof titanium
alloy . The flag-placing during
Arktika 2007 generated commentary on
and concern for a race for control of the Arctic's vast hydrocarbon
Foreign ministers and other officials representing Canada, Denmark,
Norway, Russia, and the
United States met in Ilulissat,
28 May 2008 at the
Arctic Ocean Conference and announced the Ilulissat
Declaration , blocking any "new comprehensive international legal
regime to govern the
Arctic Ocean," and pledging "the orderly
settlement of any possible overlapping claims."
As of 2012,
Denmark is claiming the continental shelf between
Greenland and the North Pole. The Russian Federation is claiming a
large swath of seabed along the Lomonosov Ridge but confined to its
sector of the Arctic.
In August 2015,
Russia submitted an application for the expansion of
the external borders of the continental shelf in the
asserting that the eastern part of the Lomonosov Ridge and the
Mendeleyev Ridge are an extension of the Eurasian continent. In August
2016, the UN
Special Commission began to consider the application of
Arctic exploration See also: Petroleum exploration in
Since 1937, the larger portion of the Asian-side
Arctic region has
been extensively explored by Soviet and Russian manned drifting ice
stations . Between 1937 and 1991, 88 international polar crews
established and occupied scientific settlements on the drift ice and
were carried thousands of kilometers by the ice flow.
Long-range pollution pathways to the
Arctic is comparatively clean, although there are certain
ecologically difficult localized pollution problems that present a
serious threat to people's health living around these pollution
sources. Due to the prevailing worldwide sea and air currents, the
Arctic area is the fallout region for long-range transport pollutants
, and in some places the concentrations exceed the levels of densely
populated urban areas. An example of this is the phenomenon of Arctic
haze , which is commonly blamed on long-range pollutants. Another
example is with the bioaccumulation of PCB's (polychlorinated
biphenyls ) in
Arctic wildlife and people.
Save the Arctic
There have been many proposals to preserve the
Arctic over the years.
Most recently a group of stars at the Rio
Earth Summit, on 21 June
2012, proposed protecting the Arctic, similar to the Antarctic
protection. The initial focus of the campaign will be a UN resolution
creating a global sanctuary around the pole, and a ban on oil drilling
and unsustainable fishing in the Arctic.
Global warming in the
The effects of global warming in the
Arctic include rising
temperatures, loss of sea ice , and melting of the
Greenland ice sheet
. Potential methane release from the region, especially through the
thawing of permafrost and methane clathrates , is also a concern.
Because of the amplified response of the
Arctic to global warming, it
is often seen as a leading indicator of global warming . The melting
of Greenland's ice sheet is linked to polar amplification.
Arctic sea ice coverage as of 2007 compared to 2005 and compared to
1979–2000 average The development of
Arctic sea ice area as
measured with satellites.
Arctic is especially vulnerable to the effects of any climate
change, as has become apparent with the reduction of sea ice in recent
years. Climate models predict much greater warming in the
the global average, resulting in significant international attention
to the region. In particular, there are concerns that Arctic
shrinkage, a consequence of melting glaciers and other ice in
Greenland, could soon contribute to a substantial rise in sea levels
Arctic warming is leading to fears of ancient carbon
being released from thawing permafrost , leading to methane and carbon
dioxide production by micro-organisms. Release of methane and carbon
dioxide stored in permafrost could cause abrupt and severe global
warming, as they are potent greenhouse gases .
Climate change is also predicted to have a large impact on Tundra
vegetation, causing an increase of shrubs, and having a negative
impact on bryophytes and lichens.
Apart from concerns regarding the detrimental effects of warming in
the Arctic, some potential opportunities have gained attention. The
melting of the ice is making the
Northwest Passage , the shipping
routes through the northernmost latitudes, more navigable, raising the
possibility that the
Arctic region will become a prime trade route .
One harbinger of the opening navigability of the
Arctic took place in
the summer of 2016 when the
Crystal Serenity successfully navigated
the Northwest Passage, a first for a large cruise ship. In addition,
it is believed that the
Arctic seabed may contain substantial oil
fields which may become accessible if the ice covering them melts.
These factors have led to recent international debates as to which
nations can claim sovereignty or ownership over the waters of the
Arctic. Eidsfjord in
Norway is 250 km (160 mi)
Arctic Circle, but the comparatively temperate Norwegian
sea gives a mean annual temperature of 4 °C (39 °F) and a
three-month summer above 10°C.
East Siberian Sea
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Chukotka Autonomous Okrug
Chukotka Autonomous Okrug
Diomede Island (Big)
Diomede Island (Little)
Franz Josef Land
Federal subject archipelago
Nenets Autonomous Okrug
New Siberian Islands
Federal subject archipelago
Northern part of
Russian Arctic islands
Russian Arctic islands
Federal subject archipelago
Nenets Autonomous Okrug
Zapovednik (nature reserve)
* Geography portal
List of countries by northernmost point
Poverty in the Arctic
Arctic Cooperation and Politics
* ^ The word was originally pronounced without the /k/ sound, but
the pronunciation with the k sound is nowadays very common. The "c"
was added to the spelling for etymological reasons and then began to
be pronounced, but (as with other spelling pronunciations ) at first
only by less educated people.
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