What Should I Know About the Arctic?

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

The Arctic refers to the region around the North Pole or the region within the Arctic Circle, the parallel of latitude located at 66°32′ or 66.5º north of the Equator. Eight countries have territory within this area:

Wolves live in the arctic.
Wolves live in the arctic.

• Canada
• Denmark (Greenland)
• Finland
• Iceland
• Norway
• Russia
• Sweden
• United States (Alaska)

Sunlight can be used as a way to delineate Arctic territory.
Sunlight can be used as a way to delineate Arctic territory.

Russia’s territory is largest with 4,000,000 square miles (10,359,950 sq km).

Alaska is the only state in the U.S. to extend north of the Arctic Circle.
Alaska is the only state in the U.S. to extend north of the Arctic Circle.

Nevertheless, the Arctic is not one of the seven continents, which do, however include its South Pole counterpart, Antarctica, with the others being North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia.

Polar bears are found throughout the Arctic.
Polar bears are found throughout the Arctic.

Arctic territory, like tropical territory, can be defined with regard to sunlight. The Arctic is the zone within which there is one period in each year of 24 hours in which the sun does not rise and another similar period in which the sun does not set.

Greenland, which belongs to the nation of Denmark, is in the Arctic.
Greenland, which belongs to the nation of Denmark, is in the Arctic.

Two-fifths of the Arctic is permanently frozen, a state referred to as permafrost. The other three-fifths thaws during the Arctic summer, which is brief. The region is customarily divided into the climates: ice caps, where the mean monthly temperature never exceeds 32º F (0ºC) and tundra, which has at least one month in which the mean temperature is greater than 32º F (0ºC), but no month’s mean temperature is above 50º F (10ºC). Temperatures of -94ºF (-70ºC) have been observed in Greenland.

Arctic tundra accounts for around 1/10 of the Earth’s surface. It is bordered on the south by the timberline and on the north by the permafrost. Wildlife on the Arctic tundra includes many animals named for the territory, like the Arctic fox, the Arctic hare, the Arctic weasel, and the Arctic Wolf. Caribou, reindeer, musk-oxen, polar bears, gray wolves, and lemmings are also found. Some insects don’t like the cold, but mosquitoes and black flies can be found in the Arctic.

In the American Arctic, one may find two peoples: the Eskimos and the Aleuts. The Eskimos have two branches, yhe Inuit and the Yupik or Yupiit. The Arctic peoples and the subarctic peoples, who are often referred to as Native Americans or Indians, have distinctive cultures and one should not generalize across these two groups without care and consideration.

Norway has territory in the Arctic Circle.
Norway has territory in the Arctic Circle.
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to wiseGEEK about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

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