The ARCTIC OCEAN is the smallest and shallowest of the world's five
major oceans . The
International Hydrographic Organization
International Hydrographic Organization(IHO)
recognizes it as an ocean, although some oceanographers call it the
ARCTIC MEDITERRANEAN SEA or simply the ARCTIC SEA, classifying it a
mediterranean sea or an estuary of the
Oceancan be seen as the northernmost part
of the all-encompassing
Located mostly in the
Arcticnorth polar region in the middle of the
Northern Hemisphere, the
Oceanis almost completely surrounded
North America. It is partly covered by sea ice
throughout the year and almost completely in winter . The Arctic
Ocean's surface temperature and salinity vary seasonally as the ice
cover melts and freezes; its salinity is the lowest on average of the
five major oceans, due to low evaporation , heavy fresh water inflow
from rivers and streams, and limited connection and outflow to
surrounding oceanic waters with higher salinities. The summer
shrinking of the ice has been quoted at 50%. The US National Snow and
Ice Data Center (NSIDC) uses satellite data to provide a daily record
Arcticsea ice cover and the rate of melting compared to an average
period and specific past years.
* 1 History
* 2 Geography
* 2.1 Extent and major ports
* 2.1.5 Russia
* 2.3 Underwater features
* 3.1 Water flow
* 5 Animal and plant life
* 6 Natural resources
* 7 Environmental concerns
* 7.3 Other concerns
* 8 See also
* 9 References
* 10 Further reading
* 11 External links
For much of European history , the north polar regions remained
largely unexplored and their geography conjectural.
Massilia recorded an account of a journey northward in 325 BC, to a
land he called "Eschate
Thule", where the Sun only set for three
hours each day and the water was replaced by a congealed substance "on
which one can neither walk nor sail". He was probably describing loose
sea ice known today as "growlers " or "bergy bits"; his "Thule" was
Norway, though the
Shetlandhave also been
Emanuel Bowen's 1780s map of the
Early cartographers were unsure whether to draw the region around the
North Poleas land (as in
Johannes Ruysch's map of 1507 , or Gerardus
Mercator 's map of 1595 ) or water (as with
world map of 1507 ). The fervent desire of European merchants for a
northern passage, the
Northern Sea Routeor the
Northwest Passage, to
China) caused water to win out, and by 1723 mapmakers such
Johann Homannfeatured an extensive "Oceanus Septentrionalis" at
the northern edge of their charts.
The few expeditions to penetrate much beyond the
this era added only small islands, such as
Spitzbergen(1596), though since these were often
surrounded by pack-ice , their northern limits were not so clear. The
makers of navigational charts , more conservative than some of the
more fanciful cartographers, tended to leave the region blank, with
only fragments of known coastline sketched in.
This lack of knowledge of what lay north of the shifting barrier of
ice gave rise to a number of conjectures. In England and other
European nations, the myth of an "
Open Polar Sea" was persistent.
John Barrow , longtime Second Secretary of the British
promoted exploration of the region from 1818 to 1845 in search of
United Statesin the 1850s and 1860s, the explorers Elisha
Isaac Israel Hayesboth claimed to have seen part of this
elusive body of water. Even quite late in the century, the eminent
Matthew Fontaine Maury
Matthew Fontaine Mauryincluded a description of the Open
Polar Sea in his textbook _The Physical Geography of the Sea_ (1883).
Nevertheless, as all the explorers who travelled closer and closer to
the pole reported, the polar ice cap is quite thick, and persists
Fridtjof Nansenwas the first to make a nautical crossing of the
ArcticOcean, in 1896. The first surface crossing of the ocean was led
Wally Herbertin 1969, in a dog sled expedition from
Svalbard, with air support. The first nautical transit of the north
pole was made in 1958 by the submarine USS Nautilus , and the first
surface nautical transit occurred in 1977 by the icebreaker NS Arktika
Since 1937, Soviet and Russian manned drifting ice stations have
extensively monitored the
ArcticOcean. Scientific settlements were
established on the drift ice and carried thousands of kilometres by
World War II
World War II, the European region of the
contested : the Allied commitment to resupply the Soviet Union via its
northern ports was opposed by German naval and air forces.
A bathymetric /topographic map of the
surrounding lands. The
Arcticregion ; of note, the region's
southerly border on this map is depicted by a red isotherm , with all
territory to the north having an average temperature of less than 10
°C (50 °F) in July.
Oceanoccupies a roughly circular basin and covers an area
of about 14,056,000 km2 (5,427,000 sq mi), almost the size of
Antarctica. The coastline is 45,390 km (28,200 mi) long. It is
surrounded by the land masses of Eurasia, North America,
and by several islands .
It is generally taken to include
Barents Sea, Beaufort
East Siberian Sea
East Siberian Sea,
White Seaand other tributary
bodies of water. It is connected to the
Pacific Oceanby the Bering
Strait and to the
Atlantic Oceanthrough the
Countries bordering the
Oceanare: Russia, Norway, Iceland,
Canadaand the United States.
EXTENT AND MAJOR PORTS
Main article: Borders of the oceans §
There are several ports and harbours around the
In Alaska, the main ports are Barrow (71°17′44″N
156°45′59″W / 71.29556°N 156.76639°W / 71.29556;
-156.76639 (Barrow) ) and Prudhoe Bay (70°19′32″N
148°42′41″W / 70.32556°N 148.71139°W / 70.32556;
-148.71139 (Prudhoe) ).
Canada, ships may anchor at Churchill (
Port of Churchill)
(58°46′28″N 094°11′37″W / 58.77444°N 94.19361°W /
58.77444; -94.19361 (Port of Churchill) ) in
NanisivikNaval Facility ) (73°04′08″N 084°32′57″W /
73.06889°N 84.54917°W / 73.06889; -84.54917 (Nanisivik
Naval Facility) ) in
133°01′52″W / 69.44278°N 133.03111°W / 69.44278;
-133.03111 (Tuktoyaktuk) ) or
133°43′50″W / 68.36167°N 133.73056°W / 68.36167;
-133.73056 (Inuvik) ) in the
In Greenland, the main port is at
NuukPort and Harbour )
(64°10′15″N 051°43′15″W / 64.17083°N 51.72083°W /
64.17083; -51.72083 (
NuukPort and Harbour) ).
Kirkenes(69°43′37″N 030°02′44″E /
69.72694°N 30.04556°E / 69.72694; 30.04556 (Kirkenes) ) and
Vardø(70°22′14″N 031°06′27″E / 70.37056°N
31.10750°E / 70.37056; 31.10750 (Vardø) ) are ports on the
mainland. Also, there is
15°39′00″E / 78.22000°N 15.65000°E / 78.22000;
15.65000 (Longyearbyen) ) on
Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago,
In Russia, major ports sorted by the different sea areas are:
Murmansk(68°58′N 033°05′E / 68.967°N 33.083°E /
68.967; 33.083 (Murmansk) ) in the Barents Sea
Arkhangelsk(64°32′N 040°32′E / 64.533°N 40.533°E
/ 64.533; 40.533 (Arkhangelsk) ) in the White Sea
Labytnangi(66°39′26″N 066°25′06″E / 66.65722°N
66.41833°E / 66.65722; 66.41833 (Labytnangi) ) Salekhard
(66°32′N 066°36′E / 66.533°N 66.600°E / 66.533;
66.600 (Salekhard) ),
Dudinka(69°24′N 086°11′E /
69.400°N 86.183°E / 69.400; 86.183 (Dudinka) ), Igarka
(67°28′N 86°35′E / 67.467°N 86.583°E / 67.467;
86.583 (Igarka) ) and Dikson (73°30′N 080°31′E /
73.500°N 80.517°E / 73.500; 80.517 (Dikson) ) in the Kara
Tiksi(71°38′N 128°52′E / 71.633°N 128.867°E /
71.633; 128.867 (Tiksi) ) in the Laptev Sea
Pevek(69°42′N 170°17′E / 69.700°N 170.283°E /
69.700; 170.283 (Pevek) ) in the East Siberian Sea
Arcticshelf comprises a number of continental shelves ,
including the Canadian
Arcticshelf, underlying the Canadian Arctic
Archipelago , and the Russian continental shelf , which is sometimes
simply called the "
ArcticShelf" because it is greater in extent. The
Russian continental shelf consists of three separate, smaller shelves,
the Barents Shelf ,
Chukchi SeaShelf and
Siberian Shelf. Of these
Siberian Shelfis the largest such shelf in the world. The
Siberian Shelfholds large oil and gas reserves, and the Chukchi shelf
forms the border between Russian and the
United Statesas stated in
USSR–USA Maritime Boundary Agreement. The whole area is subject
to international territorial claims .
An underwater ridge , the
Lomonosov Ridge, divides the deep sea
North Polar Basin into two oceanic basins : the
Eurasian Basin, which
is between 4,000 and 4,500 m (13,100 and 14,800 ft) deep, and the
Amerasian Basin(sometimes called the North American, or Hyperborean
Basin), which is about 4,000 m (13,000 ft) deep. The bathymetry of the
ocean bottom is marked by fault block ridges, abyssal plains , ocean
deeps , and basins. The average depth of the
Oceanis 1,038 m
(3,406 ft). The deepest point is
Litke Deepin the
5,450 m (17,880 ft).
The two major basins are further subdivided by ridges into the Canada
Basin (between Alaska/
Alpha Ridge), Makarov Basin
(between the Alpha and Lomonosov Ridges),
Lomonosov and Gakkel ridges), and
Nansen Basin(between the Gakkel
Ridge and the continental shelf that includes the
Franz Josef Land
Franz Josef Land).
Distribution of the major water mass in the
section sketches the different water masses along a vertical section
Bering Straitover the geographic
Fram Strait. As
the stratification is stable, deeper water masses are more dense than
the layers above.
Densitystructure of the upper 1,200 m (3,900
ft) in the
ArcticOcean. Profiles of temperature and salinity for the
Amundsen Basin, the
Canadian Basinand the
GreenlandSea are sketched
in this cartoon.
In large parts of the
ArcticOcean, the top layer (about 50 m (160
ft)) is of lower salinity and lower temperature than the rest. It
remains relatively stable, because the salinity effect on density is
bigger than the temperature effect. It is fed by the freshwater input
of the big Siberian and Canadian streams (Ob , Yenisei , Lena ,
Mackenzie ), the water of which quasi floats on the saltier, denser,
deeper ocean water. Between this lower salinity layer and the bulk of
the ocean lies the so-called halocline , in which both salinity and
temperature are rising with increasing depth. A
Because of its relative isolation from other oceans, the
has a uniquely complex system of water flow. It is classified as a
mediterranean sea, which as “a part of the world ocean which has
only limited communication with the major ocean basins (these being
the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans) and where the circulation is
dominated by thermohaline forcing”. The
Oceanhas a total
volume of 18.07×106 km3, equal to about 1.3% of the World Ocean. Mean
surface circulation is predominately cyclonic on the
anticyclonic in the
Water enters from both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and can be
divided into three unique water masses. The deepest water mass is
ArcticBottom Water and begins around 900 metres (3,000 feet)
depth. It is composed of the densest water in the
World Oceanand has
two main sources:
Arcticshelf water and
GreenlandSea Deep Water.
Water in the shelf region that begins as inflow from the Pacific
passes through the narrow
Bering Straitat an average rate of 0.8
Sverdrups and reaches the
Chukchi Sea. During the winter, cold
Alaskan winds blow over the Chukchi Sea, freezing the surface water
and pushing this newly formed ice out to the Pacific. The speed of the
ice drift is roughly 1–4 cm/s. This process leaves dense, salty
waters in the sea that sink over the continental shelf into the
Oceanand create a halocline . The Kennedy
This water is met by
GreenlandSea Deep Water, which forms during the
passage of winter storms. As temperatures cool dramatically in the
winter, ice forms and intense vertical convection allows the water to
become dense enough to sink below the warm saline water below. Arctic
Bottom Water is critically important because of its outflow, which
contributes to the formation of Atlantic Deep Water. The overturning
of this water plays a key role in global circulation and the
moderation of climate.
In the depth range of 150–900 metres (490–2,950 feet) is a water
mass referred to as Atlantic Water. Inflow from the North Atlantic
Current enters through the
Fram Strait, cooling and sinking to form
the deepest layer of the halocline, where it circles the
counter-clockwise. This is the highest volumetric inflow to the Arctic
Ocean, equalling about 10 times that of the Pacific inflow, and it
OceanBoundary Current. It flows slowly, at about
0.02 m/s. Atlantic Water has the same salinity as
but is much warmer (up to 3 °C). In fact, this water mass is actually
warmer than the surface water, and remains submerged only due to the
role of salinity in density. When water reaches the basin it is
pushed by strong winds into a large circular current called the
Beaufort Gyre. Water in the
Beaufort Gyreis far less saline than
that of the
Chukchi Seadue to inflow from large Canadian and Siberian
The final defined water mass in the
Oceanis called Arctic
Surface Water and is found from 150–200 metres (490–660 feet). The
most important feature of this water mass is a section referred to as
the sub-surface layer. It is a product of Atlantic water that enters
through canyons and is subjected to intense mixing on the Siberian
Shelf . As it is entrained, it cools and acts a heat shield for the
surface layer. This insulation keeps the warm Atlantic Water from
melting the surface ice. Additionally, this water forms the swiftest
currents of the Arctic, with speed of around 0.3-0.6 m/s.
Complementing the water from the canyons, some Pacific water that does
not sink to the shelf region after passing through the Bering Strait
also contributes to this water mass.
Waters originating in the Pacific and Atlantic both exit through the
SvalbardIsland , which is about
2,700 metres (8,900 feet) deep and 350 kilometres (220 miles) wide.
This outflow is about 9 Sv. The width of the
Fram Straitis what
allows for both inflow and outflow on the Atlantic side of the Arctic
Ocean. Because of this, it is influenced by the
Coriolis force, which
concentrates outflow to the East
GreenlandCurrent on the western side
and inflow to the
Norwegian Currenton the eastern side. Pacific
water also exits along the west coast of
Greenlandand the Hudson
Strait (1-2 Sv), providing nutrients to the Canadian Archipelago.
As noted, the process of ice formation and movement is a key driver
Oceancirculation and the formation of water masses. With
this dependence, the
Oceanexperiences variations due to
seasonal changes in sea ice cover.
Sea icemovement is the result of
wind forcing, which is related to a number of meteorological
conditions that the
Arcticexperiences throughout the year. For
example, the Beaufort High—an extension of the Siberian High
system—is a pressure system that drives the anticyclonic motion of
the Beaufort Gyre. During the summer, this area of high pressure is
pushed out closer to its Siberian and Canadian sides. In addition,
there is a sea level pressure (SLP) ridge over
strong northerly winds through the
FramStrait, facilitating ice
export. In the summer, the SLP contrast is smaller, producing weaker
winds. A final example of seasonal pressure system movement is the low
pressure system that exists over the Nordic and Barents Seas. It is an
extension of the
Icelandic Low, which creates cyclonic ocean
circulation in this area. The low shifts to centre over the North Pole
in the summer. These variations in the
Arcticall contribute to ice
drift reaching its weakest point during the summer months. There is
also evidence that the drift is associated with the phase of the
Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation
Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation.
Sea cover in the
ArcticOcean, showing the median, 2005 and 2007
coverage Main article:
Much of the
Oceanis covered by sea ice that varies in extent
and thickness seasonally. The mean extent of the ice has been
decreasing since 1980 from the average winter value of 15,600,000 km2
(6,023,200 sq mi) at a rate of 3% per decade. The seasonal variations
are about 7,000,000 km2 (2,702,700 sq mi) with the maximum in April
and minimum in September. The sea ice is affected by wind and ocean
currents, which can move and rotate very large areas of ice. Zones of
compression also arise, where the ice piles up to form pack ice.
Icebergs occasionally break away from northern
Ellesmere Island, and
icebergs are formed from glaciers in western
northeastern Canada. These icebergs pose a hazard to ships, of which
the _Titanic_ is one of the most famous.
Permafrostis found on most
islands. The ocean is virtually icelocked from October to June, and
the superstructure of ships are subject to icing from October to May.
Before the advent of modern icebreakers , ships sailing the Arctic
Oceanrisked being trapped or crushed by sea ice (although the
_Baychimo _ drifted through the
Oceanuntended for decades
despite these hazards).
Climatechange in the
Arctic Play media Changes in
ice between 1990–1999
Under the influence of the
Quaternary glaciation, the
is contained in a polar climate characterized by persistent cold and
relatively narrow annual temperature ranges. Winters are characterized
by the polar night , extreme cold, frequent low-level temperature
inversions, and stable weather conditions. Cyclones are only common
on the Atlantic side. Summers are characterized by continuous
daylight (midnight sun ), and temperatures can rise above the melting
point (0 °C (32 °F). Cyclones are more frequent in summer and may
bring rain or snow. It is cloudy year-round, with mean cloud cover
ranging from 60% in winter to over 80% in summer.
The temperature of the surface of the
constant, near the freezing point of seawater . Because the Arctic
Oceanconsists of saltwater, the temperature must reach −1.8 °C
(28.8 °F) before freezing occurs.
The density of sea water, in contrast to fresh water, increases as it
nears the freezing point and thus it tends to sink. It is generally
necessary that the upper 100–150 m (330–490 ft) of ocean water
cools to the freezing point for sea ice to form. In the winter the
relatively warm ocean water exerts a moderating influence, even when
covered by ice. This is one reason why the
Arcticdoes not experience
the extreme temperatures seen on the
There is considerable seasonal variation in how much pack ice of the
Arcticice pack covers the
ArcticOcean. Much of the
is also covered in snow for about 10 months of the year. The maximum
snow cover is in March or April — about 20 to 50 cm (7.9 to 19.7 in)
over the frozen ocean.
The climate of the
Arcticregion has varied significantly in the
past. As recently as 55 million years ago, during the
Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum, the region reached an average
annual temperature of 10–20 °C (50–68 °F). The surface waters
of the northernmost
Oceanwarmed, seasonally at least, enough
to support tropical lifeforms requiring surface temperatures of over
22 °C (72 °F).
ANIMAL AND PLANT LIFE
_ Three polar bears approach USS Honolulu_ near the
Endangered marine species in the
Oceaninclude walruses and
whales . The area has a fragile ecosystem which is slow to change and
slow to recover from disruptions or damage. Lion\'s mane jellyfish
are abundant in the waters of the Arctic, and the banded gunnel is the
only species of gunnel that lives in the ocean.
Oceanhas relatively little plant life except for
Phytoplanktonare a crucial part of the ocean and
there are massive amounts of them in the Arctic, where they feed on
nutrients from rivers and the currents of the Atlantic and Pacific
oceans. During summer, the sun is out day and night, thus enabling
the phytoplankton to photosynthesize for long periods of time and
reproduce quickly. However, the reverse is true in winter when they
struggle to get enough light to survive.
See also: Natural resources of the
Arctic, Territorial claims in the
Petroleumand natural gas fields , placer deposits , polymetallic
nodules , sand and gravel aggregates , fish, seals and whales can all
be found in abundance in the region.
The political dead zone near the centre of the sea is also the focus
of a mounting dispute between the United States, Russia, Canada,
Norway, and Denmark. It is significant for the global energy market
because it may hold 25% or more of the world's undiscovered oil and
Climatechange in the
Ozone depletion, and
Pollution in the
ARCTIC ICE MELTING
Arcticice pack is thinning, and in many years there is also a
seasonal hole in the ozone layer . Reduction of the area of Arctic
sea ice reduces the planet's average albedo , possibly resulting in
global warming in a positive feedback mechanism. Research shows that
Arcticmay become ice free for the first time in human history
within a few years or by 2040. Estimates vary for when the last time
Arcticwas ice free: 65 million years ago when fossils indicate
that plants existed there to as few as 5,500 years ago; ice and ocean
cores going back 8000 years to the last warm period or 125,000 during
the last intraglacial period .
Warming temperatures in the
Arcticmay cause large amounts of fresh
meltwater to enter the north Atlantic, possibly disrupting global
ocean current patterns . Potentially severe changes in the Earth's
climate might then ensue.
As the extent of sea ice diminishes and sea level rises, the effect
of storms such as the Great
Cycloneof 2012 on open water
increases, as does possible salt-water damage to vegetation on shore
at locations such as the Mackenzie's river delta as stronger storm
surges become more likely.
Clathrate gun hypothesis Marine
extinction intensity during the
Phanerozoic % Millions of years ago
(H) K–Pg Tr–J P–Tr Cap Late D O–S The
Triassicextinction event (the
Great Dying) may have been
caused by release of methane from clathrates . An estimated 52% of
marine genus became extinct, representing 96% of all marine species .
Sea ice, and the cold conditions it sustains, serves to stabilise
methane deposits on and near the shoreline, preventing the clathrate
breaking down and outgassing methane into the atmosphere, causing
further warming. Melting of this ice may release large quantities of
methane , a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere , causing
further warming in a strong positive feedback cycle and; marine genus
and species to become extinct.
Other environmental concerns relate to the radioactive contamination
Oceanfrom, for example, Russian radioactive waste dump
sites in the
Kara Sea and
Cold Warnuclear test sites such as Novaya
Zemlya. In addition, Shell planned to drill exploratory wells in the
Chukchi and Beaufort seas during the summer of 2012, which
environmental groups filed a lawsuit about in an attempt to protect
native communities, endangered wildlife, and the
event of a major oil spill.
On July 16, 2015, five nations (
United Statesof America, Russia,
Canada, Norway, Denmark/Greenland) signed a declaration committing to
keep their fishing vessels out of a 1.1 million square mile zone in
Oceannear the North Pole. The agreement calls for
those nations to refrain from fishing there until there is better
scientific knowledge about the marine resources and until a regulatory
system is in place to protect those resources.
* Geography portal
Arcticcooperation and politics
Arcticsea ice ecology and history
* Explorers of the
* Extreme points of the
* Fauna of the
North Atlantic Current
North Atlantic Current
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