The Arctic is a polar region located at the northernmost part of the Earth. The Arctic consists of the Arctic Ocean and parts of Alaska (United States), Canada, Finland, Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Norway, Russia, and Sweden. The Arctic region consists of a vast ocean with a seasonally varying ice cover, surrounded by treeless permafrost. The area can be defined as north of the Arctic Circle (66° 33'N), the approximate limit of the midnight sun and the polar night. Alternatively, it can be defined as 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.

Socially and politically, the Arctic region includes the northern territories of the eight Arctic states, although by natural science definitions much of this territory is considered subarctic. The Arctic region is a unique area among Earth's ecosystems. The cultures in the region and the Arctic indigenous peoples have adapted to its cold and extreme conditions. In recent years the extent of the sea ice has declined. Life in the Arctic includes organisms living in the ice,[5] zooplankton and phytoplankton, fish and marine mammals, birds, land animals, plants and human societies. Read more ...

North Pole

The North Pole, also known as the Geographic North Pole or Terrestrial North Pole, is, subject to the caveats explained below, defined as the point in the Northern Hemisphere where the Earth's axis of rotation meets its surface. It should not be confused with the North Magnetic Pole.

The North Pole is the northernmost point on the Earth, lying diametrically opposite the South Pole. It defines geodetic latitude 90 North, as well as the direction of true north. At the North Pole all directions point south; all lines of longitude converge there, so its longitude can be defined as any degree value. While the South Pole lies on a continental land mass, the North Pole is located in the middle of the Arctic Ocean amid waters that are almost permanently covered with constantly shifting sea ice. This makes it impractical to construct a permanent station at the North Pole (unlike the South Pole). However, the Soviet Union, and later Russia, constructed a number of manned drifting stations on a generally annual basis since 1937, some of which have passed over or very close to the Pole. Since 2002, the Russians have also annually established a base, Barneo, close to the Pole. This operates for a few weeks during early spring. Studies in the 2000s predicted that the North Pole may become seasonally ice-free due to Arctic ice shrinkage, with timescales varying from 2016 to the late 21st century or later.

The sea depth at the North Pole has been measured at 4,261 m (13,980 ft) by the Russian Mir submersible in 2007 and at 4,087 m (13,410 ft) by USS Nautilus in 1958. The nearest land is usually said to be Kaffeklubben Island, off the northern coast of Greenland about 700 km (430 mi) away, though some perhaps non-permanent gravel banks lie slightly closer. The nearest permanently inhabited place is Alert in the Qikiqtaaluk Region, Nunavut, Canada, which is located 817 km (508 mi) from the Pole. Read more ...

Svalbard Global Seed Vault

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a secure seed bank on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen near Longyearbyen in the remote Arctic Svalbard archipelago, about 1,300 kilometres (810 mi) from the North Pole. Conservationist Cary Fowler, in association with the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), started the vault to preserve a wide variety of plant seeds that are duplicate samples, or "spare" copies, of seeds held in gene banks worldwide. The seed vault is an attempt to insure against the loss of seeds in other genebanks during large-scale regional or global crises. The seed vault is managed under terms spelled out in a tripartite agreement between the Norwegian government, the Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT) and the Nordic Genetic Resource Center (NordGen). The Norwegian government entirely funded the vault's approximately NOK 45 million (US$9 million) construction. Storing seeds in the vault is free to end users, with Norway and the Global Crop Diversity Trust paying for operational costs. Primary funding for the Trust comes from such organizations as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and from various governments worldwide. Read more ...

   Arctic Seed Vault Opens National Geographic - February 26, 2008

Arctic In the News ....

Hottest Arctic on record triggers massive ice melt   PhysOrg - December 13, 2016

The Arctic shattered heat records in the past year as unusually warm air triggered massive melting of ice and snow and a late fall freeze, US government scientists said Tuesday. The grim assessment came in the Arctic Report Card 2016, a peer-reviewed document by 61 scientists around the globe issued by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Arctic region is continuing to warm up more than twice as fast as the rest of the planet, which is also expected to mark its hottest year in modern times. Climate scientists say the reasons for the rising heat include the burning of fossil fuels that emit heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, southerly winds that pushed hot air from the mid-latitudes northward, as well as the El Nino ocean warming trend, which ended mid-year.

2.7 Million-Year-Old Soil Found Deep Beneath Greenland's Ice   NBC - April 20, 2014

Buried thousands of feet under Summit, the highest point on Greenland's ice sheet, is a soil born before humans walked the earth. The 2.7-million-year-old silt is a remnant of the verdant tundra that covered Greenland before it was entombed in ice, researchers report. Pollen and plant DNA buried in the seafloor offshore of Greenland also suggest the island once had tundra and patchy forest, similar to today's high Arctic. The new findings hint that at Summit, the tundra landscape was open to the sky for 200,000 years to 1 million years before ice covered it.

Why Arctic Sea Ice Melts So Quickly   Live Science - January 21, 2013

During the Arctic spring and summer, ponds of freshwater appear on the melting ice, dotting the landscape with a dazzling range of blues. Despite their beauty, these melt ponds are a harbinger of climate change in the Arctic, according to a new study by researchers at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany. The pools form more easily on young ice, and young ice now accounts for more than 50 percent of the Arctic sea ice cover. The ponds also absorb more of the sun's heat, helping ice melt faster, the study finds.

Massive Meteorite Crater Found in Canadian Arctic   Live Science - August 9, 2012

Researchers in Canada's western Arctic have found evidence of a crater that formed when a huge meteorite slammed into Earth millions of years ago. Measuring about 15 miles (25 kilometers) across, the formation was named the Prince Albert impact crater after the peninsula where it was discovered. Researchers don't know exactly when it was created, but evidence suggests the crater is between 130 million and 350 million years old, according to a statement from the University of Saskatchewan. Meteors are fragments of asteroids or comets that enter Earth's atmosphere at high speeds; most are small, some as tiny as a grain of sand, so they disintegrate in the air, and only rarely are they large enough to make it to Earth's surface. When meteors slam into Earth, they are called meteorites.

Simultaneous ice melt in Antarctic and Arctic   PhysOrg - December 2, 2011
The end of the last ice age and the processes that led to the melting of the northern and southern ice sheets supply basic information on changes in our climate. Although the maximum size of the ice sheet in the northern hemisphere during the last ice age is relatively well known, there is little reliable data on the dimensions of the Antarctic ice sheet. A publication appearing in the journal Science on 1 December now furnishes indications that the two hemispheres attained their maximum ice sheet size at nearly the same time and started melting 19,000 years ago.

Global warming creates 'new normal' in Arctic   NBC - December 2, 2011

Global warming has brought a "new normal" to the Arctic, with warmer air and ocean temperatures, thinner and less expansive summer sea ice, and greener vegetation in coastal regions abutting the open water. In addition, longer periods of open water during the annual sea-ice melt season is allowing the ocean to take up more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, leading to seasonal bouts of ocean acidification in some areas.

Arctic sea ice reaches minimum 2011 extent, making it second lowest in satellite record   PhysOrg - September 15, 2011

The blanket of sea ice that floats on the Arctic Ocean appears to have reached its lowest extent for 2011, the second lowest recorded since satellites began measuring it in 1979, according to the University of Colorado Boulder's National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Mummified Forest Found on Treeless Arctic Island   National Geographic - December 21, 2010

Pines, spruces buried in landslide millions of years ago, when area was warmer. An ancient mummified forest, complete with well-preserved logs, leaves, and seedpods, has been discovered deep in the Canadian Arctic, scientists say. The dry, frigid site is now surrounded by glaciers and is completely treeless, except for a few bonsai-size dwarf trees. The forest was discovered recently by a research team who'd heard a surprising story from rangers in Quttinirpaaq National Park. The park is located on Ellesmere Island (see map), one of the world's northernmost landmasses. The rangers had come across wood scattered on the ground from much larger trees than the few dwarfs currently in the area, including logs that were several feet long.

Hippo-like Mammals Once Basked in Toasty Arctic   Live Science - September 11, 2010

The climate in some Arctic locales sometimes never dipped below freezing some 50 million years ago, scientists now reveal.

Arctic rocks may contain oldest remnants of Earth   BBC - August 11, 2010

Scientists have found Arctic rocks that may preserve the earliest remnants of Earth. Over billions of years, much of the material that made up the early Earth was modified by processes such as melting and mixing. But the Arctic rocks seem to contain chemical signatures that date from just after the Earth's violent origin.

Ancient Tools Revealed by Melting Arctic Ice   Live Science - April 27, 2010

Ice Patch Archaeology is a recent phenomenon that began in Yukon. In 1997, sheep hunters discovered a 4,300-year-old dart shaft in caribou dung that had become exposed as the ice receded. Scientists who investigated the site found layers of caribou dung buried between annual deposits of ice. They also discovered a repository of well-preserved artifacts.

Massive Devon Island Ice Cap Is Shrinking, Study Shows; Rate Accelerating Since 1985   Science Daily - April 13, 2010

Trees invading warming Arctic will cause warming over entire region, study shows   PhysOrg - January 12, 2010
Contrary to scientists' predictions that, as the Earth warms, the movement of trees into the Arctic will have only a local warming effect, University of California, Berkeley, scientists modeling this scenario have found that replacing tundra with trees will melt sea ice and greatly enhance warming over the entire Arctic region.

Record Migration: Small Birds Travel 50,000 Miles   Live Science - January 12, 2010

Some birds make long treks south during wintertime, but the Artic tern bests them all, flying on average 44,000 miles (70,900 km) on its annual migration from pole to pole, according to a new study. The shortest journey recorded for the tern was 36,900 miles (59,500 km) and the longest 50,700 miles (81,600 km). The study confirms what has been supposed for decades - the Arctic tern has the longest annual migration of any animal in the world. When added up over a lifetime, the total journey for the bird is the equivalent of three trips to the moon and back.

Time-Lapse Photos Show Dramatic Erosion of Alaska/Arctic Coastline   Live Science - December 14, 2009

Time-lapse photography of crumbling Alaskan coastlines is helping scientists understand the "triple whammy" of forces eroding the local landscape: declining sea ice, warming ocean waters and more poundings by waves. The erosion rates from these forces are greater than anything seen along the world's coastlines, with the coast midway between Alaska's Point Barrow and Prudhoe Bay falling into the ocean in the inland direction by up to one-third the length of a football field annually, scientists have found.

"Alien" Jellyfish Found in Arctic Deep   National Geographic - December 12, 2009

Strange jellies of the icy depths   BBC - September 1, 2009

New details are emerging about the life-forms that survive in one of the world's most inaccessible places. Scientists have published descriptions of a range of jelly-like animals that inhabit the deep oceans of the Arctic. The animals were originally filmed and photographed during a series of submersible dives in 2005. One of the biggest surprises is that one of the most common animals in the Arctic deep sea is a type of jellyfish that is completely new to science. The deep Arctic ocean is isolated from much of the water elsewhere on the globe.

Arctic climate under greenhouse conditions in the Late Cretaceous   PhysOrg - July 9, 2009
New evidence for ice-free summers with intermittent winter sea ice in the Arctic Ocean during the Late Cretaceous - a period of greenhouse conditions - gives a glimpse of how the Arctic is likely to respond to future global warming.

53 million-year-old high Arctic mammals wintered in darkness   PhysOrg - June 1, 2009
Ancestors of tapirs and ancient cousins of rhinos living above the Arctic Circle 53 million years ago endured six months of darkness each year in a far milder climate than today that featured lush, swampy forests, according to a new study led by the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Odd, Identical Species Found at Both Poles National Geographic - February 15, 2009

Ice oceans 'are not poles apart' BBC - February 15, 2009
At least 235 marine species are living in both polar regions, despite being 12,000km apart, a census has found.
Same Species Found at Both Ends of Earth Live Science - February 15, 2009

Arctic Ice in "Death Spiral," Is Near Record Low National Geographic - September 17, 2008
The Arctic Ocean's sea ice has shrunk to its second smallest area on record, close to 2007's record-shattering low, scientists report. The ice is in a "death spiral" and may disappear in the summers within a couple of decades, according to Mark Serreze, an Arctic climate expert at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.

Boiling Hot Water Found in Frigid Arctic Sea Live Science - July 24, 2008

Many miles inside the Arctic Circle, scientists have found elusive vents of scalding liquid rising out of the seafloor at temperatures that are more than twice the boiling point of water. The cluster of five hydrothermal vents, also called black smokers, were discovered farther north than any others previously identified. The vents, one of which towers four stories high, are located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge between Greenland and Norway, more than 120 miles farther north than other known vents.

U.S. Study: Arctic Loaded with Oil and Gas Live Science - July 24, 2008
The unexplored Arctic contains about one-fifth of the world's undiscovered oil and nearly a third of the natural gas yet to be found, according to a new study. The untapped reserves are beneath the seafloor in geopolitically controversial areas above the Arctic Circle.

Distant Wildfires Cause Arctic Cooling Discovery - July 22, 2008
It's hard to imagine that the raging blazes of wildfires could cool things down, but that is the conclusion of a new study. Robert Stone of the University of Colorado, Boulder, and colleagues report that wildfire smoke that reaches the Arctic has the net effect of cooling the surface by reducing the amount of sunlight that makes it through. The effect of smoke and other aerosol particles in the atmosphere is a large source of uncertainty in climate models. The new work removes some of that uncertainty.

Volcanoes erupting beneath Arctic ice MSNBC - June 28, 2008

New evidence deep beneath the Arctic ice suggests that a series of underwater volcanoes have erupted in violent explosions in the past decade. Hidden 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) beneath the Arctic surface, the volcanoes can range up to more than a mile (2 kilometers) in diameter and a few hundred yards (meters) tall. They formed along the Gakkel Ridge, a lengthy crack in the ocean crust where two rocky plates are spreading apart, pulling new melted rock to the surface. Until now, scientists thought undersea volcanoes only dribbled lava from cracks in the seafloor. The extreme pressure from the overlying water makes it difficult for gas and magma to blast outward. But the Gakkel Ridge, which is relatively unexplored and considered unique for its slow spreading rate, is just the place for surprises.

Arctic Volcanoes Found Active at Unprecedented Depths National Geographic - June 27, 2008
Buried under thick ice and frigid water, volcanic explosions are shaking the Arctic Ocean floor at depths previously thought impossible, according to a new study. Using robot-operated submarines, researchers have found deposits of glassy rock - evidence of eruptions - scattered over more than 5 square miles (15 square kilometers) of the seabed.

Ice diary: Science in the fast-changing Arctic BBC - June 27, 2008
Liz Kalaugher reports from the High Arctic as she travels aboard the Amundsen, a Canadian Coast Guard vessel. She has joined an expedition investigating the effects of climate change off Banks Island.

Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, Largest In Northern Hemisphere, Has Fractured Into Three Main Pieces Science Daily - April 17, 2008

A team of scientists including polar expert Dr. Derek Mueller from Trent University and Canadian Rangers have discovered that the largest ice shelf in the Northern Hemisphere has fractured into three main pieces. During their sovereignty patrol across the northernmost parts of Canada over the last two weeks, they visited a new 18 kilometre-long network of cracks running from the southern edge of the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf to the Arctic Ocean. This accompanies a large central fracture that was first detected in 2002, and raises the concern that the remaining ice shelf will disintegrate within the next few years.

Mysterious "Rain on Snow" Events Tracked in Arctic National Geographic - March 4, 2008
A few warm, springlike days might sound appealing if you live in the frigid Arctic Circle. But a rise in temperature can spell doom for native peoples and the caribou, musk-oxen, and reindeer that they depend on in Earth's northernmost regions. That's because a mysterious phenomenon known as "rain on snow," when sudden warm air turns northern snows to rain or slush, can cause animals to starve. Rather than melting the snow, rain seeps through the snowpack and pools on top of the frozen soil. nWhen the extreme cold returns, the water freezes into an impermeable shell that prevents animals from grazing.

Giant "Sea Monster" Fossil Discovered in Arctic - National Geographic - February 27, 2008

The 150-million-year-old creature was first discovered in 2006 on Spitsbergen, part of Norway's Svalbard archipelago, in a polar wasteland littered with fossilized sea reptiles.
Sea reptile is biggest on record BBC - February 27, 2008

A fossilized "sea monster" unearthed on an Arctic island is the largest marine reptile known to science, Norwegian scientists have announced. The 150 million-year-old specimen was found on Spitspergen, in the Arctic island chain of Svalbard, in 2006.

Rich life emerges from nature's freezer BBC - December 27, 2007
Tiny channels in the Arctic ice support creatures that play a crucial role in climate-affected ecosystems. The Arctic ice supports, literally, the polar bear, a half-tonne behemoth of creamy-white fur and muscle and claws you would not argue with. It is highly visible and hugely iconic. But just as the tiger and the rhinoceros depend on creatures you cannot see without a microscope and would not willingly give house room to if you could, so does the polar bear stand, literally, on a patchwork lattice of invisible, miniscule life. Life-forms such as polychaetes (or bristleworms), copepods and amphipods that live just under the ice, around its edge, or even inside the floes themselves.

McCall melt links the Arctic eras BBC - December 26, 2007
"Sometimes you'd just land and set up your equipment," recalls Carl Benson, "and the pilot sees clouds rolling in and says 'I'd better get out of here, do you want to come with me or do you want to stay'? "So you push the 'plane round so they can take off, and you don't know when you're going to see them again." Dr Benson is one of a band of scientists hardier than most who have spent decades working to understand the finer workings of glaciers.

The dramatic springtime collapse of surface ozone in the Arctic has been documented by scientists BBC - December 14, 2007
Observations from a boat that drifted with the ice across the North Pole show the gas can disappear in just days. Dr Jan Bottenheim told a US conference that the precise chemical reactions involved were not fully understood. However, he said any changes to these processes as the Arctic warmed might limit the region's ability to deal with pollutants in the atmosphere. "Ozone is the source for the 'vacuum cleaner of the atmosphere' - the molecule OH. So if we don't have as much ozone, we can't make as much hydroxyl. If we then pump pollutants from mid-latitudes into the Arctic, they may just stay there," explained Dr Bottenheim.

Warming 'opens Northwest Passage' BBC - September 14, 2007

The most direct shipping route from Europe to Asia is fully clear of ice for the first time since records began. Historically, the Northwest Passage linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans has been ice-bound through the year. But the agency says ice cover has been steadily shrinking, and this summer's reduction has made the route navigable. The findings, based on satellite images, raised concerns about the speed of global warming.

Surprise New Arctic Inhabitants: Trees Live Science - March 9, 2007

Rising temperatures fueled by global warming are causing forests of spruce trees to invade Arctic tundra faster than scientists originally thought, evicting and endangering the species that dwell there and only there, a new study concludes.Tundra is land area where tree growth is inhibited by low temperatures and a short growing season. In the Arctic, the tundra is dominated by permafrost, a layer of permanently frozen subsoil.

'Monster' fossil find in Arctic BBC - October 5, 2006

Norwegian scientists have discovered a "treasure trove" of fossils belonging to giant sea reptiles that roamed the seas at the time of the dinosaurs. The 150-million-year-old fossils were uncovered on the Arctic island chain of Svalbard - about halfway between the Norwegian mainland and the North Pole. The finds belong to two groups of extinct marine reptiles - the plesiosaurs and the ichthyosaurs.

Arctic's tropical past uncovered BBC - May 31, 2006

Fifty-five million years ago the North Pole was an ice-free zone with tropical temperatures, according to research. A sediment core excavated from 400m (1,300ft) below the seabed of the Arctic Ocean has enabled scientists to delve far back into the region's past. An international team has been able to pin-point the changes that occurred as the Arctic transformed from this hot environment to its present cold status.