One of the coldest places on Earth, the Arctic caps the northern most point on Earth. Home to the North Pole, and some say Santa Claus, this icy alien world is full of facts to discover. So read on to learn 35 frosty facts about the Arctic.
Fact 1: The Arctic is the polar region that surrounds the northern most point on Earth, the North Pole.
Fact 2: The Arctic is surrounded by a number of northern countries. These include the United States of America state of Alaska, Greenland, Sweden, Russia, Iceland, Canada, Finland, and Norway. I bet the people in these countries are constantly shivering from the cold!
Fact 3: Huge areas of land found within the Arctic are classed as tundra. Land that is classed as tundra is effectively frozen all year round. This means there is very little plant life growing there.
Fact 4: The Arctic landscape consists of ground filled with permafrost. Permafrost is soil that is permanently frozen throughout the year.
Fact 5: The North Pole doesn’t actually sit on land. It’s in the middle of the Arctic Ocean which is permanently frozen over with sea ice. So the North Pole flag is just hammered into the ice!
Fact 6: Huge areas of the Arctic are covered in seasonal size that forms every winter and melts every summer.
Fact 7: The arctic is mostly a barren frozen wasteland. Yet, it’s still home to many types of animals and plants. At the bottom of the food chain you’ll find phytoplankton and zooplankton. Higher up the food chain you’ll find many species of fish, marine mammals, birds and land animals.
Fact 8: The word arctic has a Greek origin which originates from the word “Arktikos” which means “Near the bear, northern”. The reason the bear is used is because the star constellation of the bear is found in the northern hemisphere’s sky.
Fact 9: The precise area that comprises the arctic is actually still debated. Usually, geographers and other scientist’s arguments fall into two camps:
- The Arctic is defined as the Arctic Circle which is 66.33° north. This is the southerly limit of The midnight sun: Where sun never sets in summer. And never rises in winter.
- The Arctic is defined by an area where the summer monthly average temperature never rises above 10°C.
Fact 10: Take a guess which area of Earth is bigger than every other country except Russia? Well, if you’ve guessed the Arctic, you’ve guessed right! At a massive 15,000,000 km², the Arctic dwarfs the USA which is only 9,834,000 km². Russia, on the other hand, is 2,100,000 km² bigger than the arctic at 17,100,000 km².
Fact 11: There is archaeological evidence that suggests humans have inhabited the Arctic for over 20,000 years. I hope they had some warm coats! I’d be freezing up there!
Fact 12: The Arctic, if defined in size by the surrounding tree line, is shrinking every year because of global warming. The Arctic circle shrinks by about 56 km north every year as the tree line advances north.
Fact 13: On average, the multi-year sea ice – ice that doesn’t melt in summer – that covers the Arctic Sea near the North Pole is only 3 to 4 m thick. However, in places it can be up to 20 m thick.
Fact 14: Single year sea ice, ice that forms in winter then melts in summer, is often only 1 m thick.
Fact 15: In winter, ice covers 12,000,000 km² of the Arctic’s total area of 15,000,000 km². That means 80% of the Arctic is covered in ice in winter. For contrast, the Antarctica ice sheet covers 14,600,000 km² of the total 20,000,000 km² area that makes the antarctic circle.
Fact 16: If you plan on taking a trip to the Arctic in winter, you better wear some gloves, a hat, and a seriously warm coat as it gets frosty up there. In winter the average temperature can plummet to a low of -40°C. For comparison, an average kitchen freezer is only -18°C.
Fact 17: The lowest temperature ever recorded in the Arctic was a rather chilly -68°C.
Fact 18: Methane, or natural gas, is constantly being released in huge quantities by the ground in the Arctic. The frozen ground, or permafrost, traps organic matter and stops it from decomposing. When the ground thaws, because of rising global temperatures, the organic matter unfreezes and decomposes. This decomposition process produces Methane as a natural byproduct.
Fact 19: Scientists believe the Arctic could be completely free of sea ice by 2040 for large parts of the year. This was thought to be completely impossible as little as 25 years ago.
Fact 20: The polar bear, the largest living land predator, lives in the Arctic. However, at 700 kg in weight and 1.6 m tall at the shoulder, this isn’t a bear you’d want to cuddle up with in bed!
Fact 21: Though the Arctic environment is inhospitable, life still finds a way to flourish. The land within the Arctic Circle a home to wolves, bears, muskox, lemmings, foxes, owls, and many more land animals that find a way to exist.
Fact 22: The Arctic is also home to many marine mammals including walruses and seals, and killer whales and Baleen whales.
Fact 23: The Arctic contains many geological deposits rich in natural resources. The circle is packed full of oil, gas, and rare earth minerals. All of which have been difficult to mine in the past due to the harsh conditions. However, with technology improving rapidly, countries are vying for control of land and sea in preparation for an “Arctic gold rush”.
Fact 24: There is a group called the Arctic Council which was formed from representatives from the surrounding Arctic countries. These countries are joined by organisations that represent six different indigenous cultures in the the Arctic region. The council was formed to administer and manage the area including sharing the natural resources within the region in sustainable ways.
Fact 25: According to international law, no country owns or can own the sea or area surrounding the North Pole.
Fact 26: In 2007, on a mild August day, Russian ingenuity was on show as two Russian bathyspheres – submarines – descended to the Arctic Ocean floor for the first time in human history. Named MIR-1 and MIR-2, the subs placed a rustproof titanium Russian flag on the ocean floor to clean the area.
Fact 27: International law prohibits any of the Arctic nations from claiming Arctic territory more than 370 km from their shores.
Fact 28: The Greenland ice sheet, which is found in the Arctic, is over 3 km thick in places. The sheet has a total area of 1,700,000 km² which means that 79% of Greenland is covered in permanent ice!
Fact 29: Historians believe that the Arctic Circle was first explored, unwittingly, by an ancient Greek sailor called Pytheas. Rewind 2300 years to the year 325 BC and you’ll find Pytheas on a wooden ship exploring the seas around what is now present-day Great Britain. It’s believed from there he sailed north to Norway. He then followed Norway’s shoreline which may have taken him and his crew into the Arctic Circle.
Fact 30: On the 6th of April, 1909, American Explorer and Navy officer Robert E. Peary claimed to be the first person to reach the North Pole. He said he achieved this feat with the help of sled dogs and three crew members. However, his claim is unverified and many modern explorers believe he couldn’t have reached the North Pole in the short time he said he did with the technology at his disposal.
Fact 31: However, the first ever undisputed explorers to reach the North Pole on foot was a Soviet group led by Alexander Kuznetsov. They reached the poll in 1948.
Fact 32: Over 4 million people live inside the Arctic Circle area. That’s just 0.06% of the total world population! A large proportion those 4 million people can be found in the northern European countries of Norway, Finland, and Sweden. Another large proportion is found in northern Russia.
Fact 33: The largest settlement inside the Arctic area is Murmansk in Russia. The city has a population of 304,000 people at the time of writing.
Fact 34: The total length of the coastline that surrounds the Arctic Ocean is 45,390 km. That’s enough shoreline to stretch all the way around equator once with 5000 km left over spare.
Fact 35: The deepest point in the Arctic Ocean is called Molloy deep. Based on our current most accurate measurements, it’s thought to be 5550 m deep. That’s enough water to submerge 14 Empire State buildings stacked on top of each other.