The Arctic

Ice floes, Greenland

The Arctic is the Earth's northern polar region, centred on the geographic north pole, which is surrounded by the frozen Arctic Ocean. There are differences of opinion on how to define the extent of the Arctic. Some consider everything north of the Arctic Circle, a line of latitude, as being the Arctic.

The Arctic includes Greenland's vast ice sheet. It is the second largest glacier on Earth after the vast Antarctic ice sheet.

Scientists from around the world are studying the effects of manmade climate change on the Greenland ice sheet, the region's sea ice and permafrost. Oil, gas and other resources lying below the Arctic Ocean and Greenland ice sheet are also being investigated by companies and nations planning to extract them as the ice retreats.

Image: The point where the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier reaches the sea, near Illuissat, Greenland (credit: J.P.Danvoye, Publiphoto Diffusion/SPL)

Introduction

Ice floes, Greenland The Arctic

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The Arctic

The Arctic (/ˈɑːrktɪk/ or /ˈɑːrtɪk/)[Note 1] is a polar region located at the northernmost part of Earth. The Arctic consists of the Arctic Ocean, adjacent seas, and parts of Alaska (United States), Canada, Finland, Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Norway, Russia, and Sweden. Land within the Arctic region has seasonally varying snow and ice cover, with predominantly treeless permafrost-containing tundra. Arctic seas contain seasonal sea ice in many places.

The 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 the 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.

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