The Greek word ‘Arktikos’ (near the bear) is the orgin of the term Arctic we use today. The celestrial reference is to the star constellations, ‘Big Bear’ and ‘Little Bear’ which are observed in the region. |
The Arctic is the northernmost part of our planet. The area lies above the Arctic Circle (66 degrees, 33 minutes North), an imaginary line that rings the top of the globe. The Circle is about 1,400 nautical miles south of the North Pole but the High Arctic refers to islands and land mass much higher than 66 degrees, like the archipelago of Svalbard, Ellesmere Island in Canada, Franz Josef land in Russia and the northern part of Greenland.
When scientists and cartographers refer to The Arctic, they mean the Arctic Ocean, which is international waters and surrounded by 8 countries : Canada, Russia, USA, Denmark (Greenland), Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland.
Each year within the Arctic Circle, there is at least one full day (24 hours) of full darkness and at least one day of complete light in summer. This happens due to the tilt and position of the Earth. The further North you go inside the Arctic Circle, the longer this polar day or night becomes.
The lowest recorded winter temperature in the Arctic is a chilly -68 degrees Celsius. Summer days however can be well above freezing. The Antarctic is even colder than the Arctic with the coldest recorded temperature being -94.7 degrees Celsius! Global warming has increased Arctic temperatures in recent years, but it remains rather cold!
There are around 4 million people living in Arctic regions. Many of them have developed unique cultures and perfected ways in which to work with and flourish within the unique and harsh environment of the Arctic.
In the Arctic, at various times of the year, you’ll be able to see Whales, Foxes, Bears, Walruses, Seals, Muskoxens and many more species of wildlife and birds.
There are herbs, mosses, lichens and some shrubs which flourish in the Arctic despite the cold. In fact, the treeless tundra, consisting of dwarf shrubs and grasses growing on frozen ground, covers a massive 4.25 million square miles or 11 million square kilometres of area.
The Arctic Ocean is about 5.43 million square miles or 14 million square kilometres, bigger than the continent of Europe. The Arctic region has been affected by climate change and global warming in recent decades. The result is retreating glaciers and changes in sensitive ecosystems. The Arctic ice contains 10% of the world’s fresh water. It plays a very important role in keeping our climate and sea levels stable. If all the Arctic ice melted, global sea levels would rise by around 30 feet or 7 metres. However, if all the Antarctic ice melted, global sea levels would rise by almost 200 feet or about 60 metres!
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