Arctic - North Pole


The Arctic is the region around the Earth's North Pole, opposite the Antarctic region around the South Pole. The Arctic includes the Arctic Ocean (which overlies the North Pole) and parts of Canada, Greenland (a territory of Denmark), Russia, the United States (Alaska), Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland.

The word Arctic comes from the Greek (arktikos), "near the Bear, arctic, northern" and that from the word (arktos), which means bear. The name refers to the constellation Ursa Major, the "Great Bear", which is prominent in the northern portion of the celestial sphere.

There are many definitions of the Arctic region. The boundary is generally considered to be north of the Arctic Circle (66 degrees 33 minutes N), which is the approximate limit of the midnight sun and the polar night. Other definitions are based on climate and ecology, such as the 10 degrees C (50 degrees F) July isotherm, which roughly corresponds to the tree line in most of the Arctic. Socially and politically, the Arctic region includes the northern territories of the eight Arctic states, including Sapmi, although by natural science definitions much of this territory is considered subarctic.

The Arctic region consists of a vast ice-covered ocean (which is sometimes considered to be a northern arm of the Atlantic Ocean) surrounded by treeless permafrost. In recent years the extent of the sea ice has declined. Life in the Arctic includes organisms living in the ice, zooplankton and phytoplankton, fish and marine mammals, birds, land animals, plants, and human societies.

The Arctic region is a unique area among Earth's ecosystems. The cultures in the region and the Arctic indigenous peoples have adapted to its cold and extreme conditions.

If the region is defined by the isotherm, then Arctic shrinkage is currently taking place due to global warming. The Arctic is projected to be free of sea ice as early as 2013, although other estimates exist.

This ice loss is linked to loss of permafrost and clathrates, which contain large quantities of methane. Many scientists believe this will cause a catastrophic Arctic methane release, potentially leading to runaway climate change. This rapid climate feedback process may be unstoppable unless geoengineering is used. Arctic geoengineering may be employed specifically to preserve ice cover.

Arctic vegetation is composed of plants such as dwarf shrubs, graminoids, herbs, lichens and mosses, which all grow relatively close to the ground, forming tundra. As one moves northward, the amount of warmth available for plant growth decreases considerably. In the northernmost areas, plants are at their metabolic limits, and small differences in the total amount of summer warmth make large differences in the amount of energy available for maintenance, growth and reproduction. Colder summer temperatures cause the size, abundance, productivity and variety of plants to decrease. Trees cannot grow in the Arctic, but in its warmest parts, shrubs are common and can reach 2 m (6 ft 7 in) in height; sedges, mosses and lichens can form thick layers. In the coldest parts of the Arctic, much of the ground is bare; nonvascular plants such as lichens and mosses predominate, along with a few scattered grasses and forbs (like the Arctic poppy).

Herbivores on the Tundra include the Arctic hare, lemming, muskox, and caribou. They are preyed on by the Arctic fox and wolf. The polar bear is also a predator, though it prefers to hunt for marine life from the ice. There are also many birds and marine species endemic to the colder regions. Other land animals include wolverines, ermines, and arctic ground squirrels. Marine mammals include seals, walrus, and several species of cetacean - baleen whales and also narwhals, killer whales and belugas.

The Arctic includes sizable natural resources (oil, gas, minerals, forest - if the subarctic is included - and fish) to which modern technology and the economic opening up of Russia have given significant new opportunities. The interest of the tourism industry is also on the increase.

The Arctic is one of the last and most extensive continuous wilderness areas in the world, and its significance in preserving biodiversity and genotypes is considerable. The increasing presence of humans fragments vital habitats. The Arctic is particularly susceptible to the abrasion of groundcover and to the disturbance of the rare reproduction places of the animals that are characteristic to the region. The Artctic also holds 1/5 of the Earth water supply.

During the Cretaceous, the Arctic still had seasonal snows, though only a light dusting and not enough to permanently hinder plant growth.[citation needed] Animals such as Chasmosaurus, Hypacrosaurus, Troodon, and Edmontosaurus may have all migrated north to take advantage of the summer growing season, and migrated south to warmer climes when the winter came. A similar situation may also have been found amongst dinosaurs that lived in Antarctic regions, such as Muttaburrasaurus of Australia.

The Inuit are the descendants of what anthropologists call the Thule culture, a nomadic people who emerged from western Alaska around 1000 CE and spread eastwards across the Arctic, displacing the related Dorset culture (in Inuktitut, the Tuniit). Inuit legends speak of the Tuniit as "giants", people who were taller and stronger than the Inuit, but who were easily scared off and retreated from the advancing Inuit. Researchers believe that the Dorset culture lacked dogs, boats and other technologies that gave the expanding Inuit society a large advantage over them. By 1300, the Inuit had settled west Greenland, and finally moved into east Greenland over the following century.

The Tuniit survived in Aivilik, Southampton and Coats Islands, until the beginning of the 20th century. They were known as Sadlermiut (Sallirmiut in the modern spelling). Their population had been ravaged by diseases brought by contact with Europeans, and the last of them fell in a flu epidemic caught from a passing whaler in 1902. The area has since been resettled by Inuit. Genetic research suggests that there was little or no intermarriage between the Tuniit and the Inuit over the thousand years of contact in the Canadian Arctic.

The Arctic region is a focus of international political interest. International Arctic cooperation got underway on a broad scale well over ten years ago. The International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), hundreds of scientists and specialists of the Arctic Council, the Barents Euro-Arctic Council and its regional cooperation have compiled high quality information on the Arctic.

No country owns the North Pole or the region of the Arctic Ocean surrounding it. The surrounding Arctic states, the United States, Canada, Russia, Norway and Denmark (via Greenland), are limited to a 370 kilometre (200 nautical mile) economic zone around their coasts.

Upon ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, a country has ten years to make claims to extend its 200 mile zone. Due to this, Norway (ratified the convention in 1996), Russia (ratified in 1997), Canada (ratified in 2003) and Denmark (ratified in 2004) launched projects to establish claims that certain Arctic sectors should belong to their territories.

On August 2, 2007, two Russian bathyscaphes, MIR-1 and MIR-2, for the first time in history descended to the Arctic seabed beneath the North Pole and placed there a Russian flag made of rust-proof titanium alloy. The mission was a scientific expedition, but the flag-placing raised concerns of a race for control of the Arctic's vast petroleum resources.

Foreign Ministers and other officials representing Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the United States met in Ilulissat, Greenland on May 28, 2008 at the Arctic Ocean Conference and announced the Ilulissat Declaration.

The Arctic is comparatively clean, although there are certain ecologically difficult localized pollution problems that present a serious threat to people's health living around these pollution sources. Due to the prevailing worldwide sea and air currents, the Arctic area is the fallout region for long-range transport pollutants, and in some places the concentrations exceed the levels of densely populated urban areas. An example of this is the phenomenon of Arctic haze, which is commonly blamed on long-range pollutants. Another example is with the bioaccumulation of PCB's (polychlorinated biphenyls) in Arctic wildlife and people.

The Arctic is especially vulnerable to the effects of global warming as has become apparent in the melting sea ice in recent years. Climate models predict much greater warming in the Arctic than global average. This fact has garnered significant international attention to the region. In particular, there are concerns that Arctic shrinkage, a consequence of melting glaciers and other ice in Greenland, could soon contribute to a substantial rise in sea levels worldwide.

A recent study by a research group at Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California working with members of NASA and the Institute of Oceanology at the Polish Academy of Sciences estimate that the Arctic sea could be ice-free in the summer as soon as 2013.

The Arctic sea ice melted at an unprecedented rate, well ahead of the estimates generated by climate models, in 2007.

In September 2008, the extent of the summer Arctic ice cap was at a near-record low, only 9 percent greater than the record low in 2007, and 33.6 percent below the average extent of sea ice from 1979 to 2000.

The current Arctic shrinkage is leading to widespread fears of a potentially catastrophic Arctic methane release. Release of methane stored in clathrates and permafrost could have a devastating effect on the Earth's atmosphere and could cause abrupt and severe global warming, as methane is a potent greenhouse gas. Similar methane release events have been linked to the great dying (a mass extinction event) and the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum (an abrupt climate change event). This process of Arctic methane release may cause positive feedback effects which rapidly accelerate global warming, due to the clathrate gun effect.

Apart from concerns regarding the detrimental effects of warming in the Arctic, some potential opportunities have gained attention as well. However, it should be noted that these advantages are minor compared to the risk of runaway global warming. The melting of the ice is making the so-called Northwest passage, the shipping routes through the northern-most latitudes, more navigable, raising the possibility that the Arctic region will become a prime trade route.

In addition, it is believed that the Arctic seabed may contain substantial oil fields which may become accessible if the ice covering them melts. These factors have led to recent international debates as to which nations can claim sovereignty or ownership over the waters of the Arctic.

NOAA's Arctic Report Card presents annually-updated, peer-reviewed information on recent observations of environmental conditions in the Arctic relative to historical records. In 2008, there continues to be widespread and, in some cases, dramatic evidence of an overall warming of the Arctic system.

Wikipedia References and Links

Great References from NOAA

North Pole

The Geographic North Pole

Magnetic North Pole

Geomagnetic North Pole

Northern Pole of Inaccessibility

Defining North Poles in astronomy

Astronomers define the north "geographic" pole of a planet or other object in the solar system by the planetary pole that is in the same ecliptic hemisphere as the Earth's north pole. More accurately, The north pole is that pole of rotation that lies on the north side of the invariable plane of the solar system.

This means some objects will have directions of rotation opposite the "normal" (i.e., not counter-clockwise as seen from above the north pole). Another frequently used definition uses the right-hand rule to define the north pole: it is then the pole around which the object rotates counterclockwise.

When using the first definition (the IAU's), an object's axial tilt will always be 90 degrees or less, but its rotation period may be negative (retrograde rotation); when using the second definition, axial tilts may be greater than 90 degrees but rotation periods will always be positive.

For the magnetic poles, their names are decided upon by the direction that their field lines emerge or enter the planet's crust. If they enter the same way as they do for Earth at the north pole, we call this the planet's north magnetic pole.

Some bodies in the solar system, including Saturn's moon Hyperion and the asteroid 4179 Toutatis, lack a stable geographic north pole. They rotate chaotically because of their irregular shape and gravitational influences from nearby planets and moons, and as a result the instantaneous pole wanders over their surface, and may vanish altogether for brief periods (when the object comes to a complete standstill with respect to the distant stars).

The projection of a planet's north geographic pole onto the celestial sphere gives its north celestial pole.In the particular (but frequent) case of synchronous satellites, four more poles can be defined. They are the near, far, leading, and trailing poles. Take Io for example; this moon of Jupiter rotates synchronously, so its orientation with respect to Jupiter stays constant.

There will be a single, unmoving point of its surface where Jupiter is at the zenith, exactly overhead - this is the near pole, also called the sub- or pro-Jovian point. At the antipode of this point is the far pole, where Jupiter lies at the nadir; it is also called the anti-Jovian point.

There will also be a single unmoving point which is furthest along Io's orbit (best defined as the point most removed from the plane formed by the north-south and near-far axes, on the leading side) - this is the leading pole. At its antipode lies the trailing pole. Io can thus be divided into north and south hemispheres, into pro- and anti-Jovian hemispheres, and into leading and trailing hemispheres.

Note that these poles are mean poles because the points are not, strictly speaking, unmoving: there is constant jiggling about the mean orientation, because Io's orbit is slightly eccentric and the gravity of the other moons disturbs it regularly.

Day and Night

During the summer months, the North Pole experiences twenty-four hours of daylight daily but during the winter months the North Pole experiences twenty-four hours of darkness daily. Sunrise and sunset do not occur in a twenty-four hour cycle. At the north pole, sunrise begins at the Vernal equinox taking three months for the sun to reach its highest point at the summer solstice when sunset begins, taking three months to reach sunset at the Autumnal equinox. A similar effect can be observed at the South Pole, with a six month difference. This day/night effect is in stark contrast to what is observed at the Equator.

This effect is caused by a combination of the Earth's axial tilt and its rotation around the sun. The direction and angle of axial tilt of the Earth remains fairly constant (on a yearly basis) in its plane of rotation around the sun. Hence during the summer, the North Pole is always facing the sun's rays but during the winter, it always faces away from the sun.

Territorial Claims to the North Pole (Arctic)

In 1925, based upon the Sector Principle, Canada became the first country to extend its boundaries northward to the North Pole, at least on paper, between 60 degrees W and 141 degrees W longitude, a claim that is not universally recognized. In addition, Canada claims the water between its Arctic Islands as internal waters. The claim is not recognized by the United States, which argues the Northwest Passage is an international waterway, despite its minimal usage for shipping. Denmark (Greenland), Russia and Norway have made similar claims, which are also opposed by the United States and by the European Union.

Otherwise, until 1999, the North Pole and Arctic Ocean had been generally considered international territory. However, as the polar ice has begun to recede at a rate higher than expected (see global warming), several countries have made moves to claim, or to enforce pre-existing claims to, the waters or seabed at the Pole. Russia made its first claim in 2001, claiming Lomonosov Ridge, an underwater mountain ridge underneath the Pole, as a natural extension of Siberia. This claim was contested by Norway, Canada, the United States and Denmark in 2004. The Danish autonomous province of Greenland has the nearest coastline to the North Pole, and Denmark argues the Lomonosov Ridge is in fact an extension of Greenland.

The potential value of the North Pole and the area around resides not so much in shipping but in the possibility that lucrative petroleum and natural gas reserves exist below the sea floor. Such reserves are known to exist under the Beaufort Sea, and further exploration elsewhere in the Arctic might become more feasible if global warming opens up the Northwest Passage as a regular channel of international shipping and commerce, particularly if Canada is not able to enforce her claim to it.

Magnetic Declination

Magnetic north is determined by the earth's magnetic field and is not the same as true (or geographic) north. The location of the magnetic north pole changes slowly over time, but it is currently northwest of Hudson Bay in northern Canada (approximately 700 km [450 mi] from the true north pole). Maps are based on the geographic north pole because it does not change over time, so north is always at the top of a quadrangle map. However, if you were walk a straight line following the direction your compass needle indicates as north, you would find that you didn't go from south to north on the map.

How far your path varied from true north depends on where you started from; the angle between a straight north-south line and the line you walked is the magnetic declination in the area you were walking. Magnetic declination has been measured throughout the U.S. and can be corrected for on your compass.

The line of zero declination runs from magnetic north through Lake Superior and across the western panhandle of Florida. Along this line, true north is the same as magnetic north. If you are working west of the line of zero declination, your compass will give a reading that is east of true north. Conversely, if you are working east of the line of zero declination, your compass reading will be west of true north. The exact amount that you need to adjust the declination on your compass to reconcile magnetic north to true north is given in the map legend to the left of the map scale.

Arctic In the News ....

2.7 Million-Year-Old Soil Found Deep Beneath Greenland's Ice   NBC - April 20, 2014
Buried thousands of feet under Summit, the highest point on Greenland's ice sheet, is a soil born before humans walked the earth. The 2.7-million-year-old silt is a remnant of the verdant tundra that covered Greenland before it was entombed in ice, researchers report. Pollen and plant DNA buried in the seafloor offshore of Greenland also suggest the island once had tundra and patchy forest, similar to today's high Arctic. The new findings hint that at Summit, the tundra landscape was open to the sky for 200,000 years to 1 million years before ice covered it. [In Photos: See Greenland's Ancient Landscape]

Why Arctic Sea Ice Melts So Quickly   Live Science - January 21, 2013
During the Arctic spring and summer, ponds of freshwater appear on the melting ice, dotting the landscape with a dazzling range of blues. Despite their beauty, these melt ponds are a harbinger of climate change in the Arctic, according to a new study by researchers at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany. The pools form more easily on young ice, and young ice now accounts for more than 50 percent of the Arctic sea ice cover. The ponds also absorb more of the sun's heat, helping ice melt faster, the study finds.

Massive Meteorite Crater Found in Canadian Arctic   Live Science - August 9, 2012
Researchers in Canada's western Arctic have found evidence of a crater that formed when a huge meteorite slammed into Earth millions of years ago. Measuring about 15 miles (25 kilometers) across, the formation was named the Prince Albert impact crater after the peninsula where it was discovered. Researchers don't know exactly when it was created, but evidence suggests the crater is between 130 million and 350 million years old, according to a statement from the University of Saskatchewan. Meteors are fragments of asteroids or comets that enter Earth's atmosphere at high speeds; most are small, some as tiny as a grain of sand, so they disintegrate in the air, and only rarely are they large enough to make it to Earth's surface. When meteors slam into Earth, they are called meteorites.

Simultaneous ice melt in Antarctic and Arctic   PhysOrg - December 2, 2011
The end of the last ice age and the processes that led to the melting of the northern and southern ice sheets supply basic information on changes in our climate. Although the maximum size of the ice sheet in the northern hemisphere during the last ice age is relatively well known, there is little reliable data on the dimensions of the Antarctic ice sheet. A publication appearing in the journal Science on 1 December now furnishes indications that the two hemispheres attained their maximum ice sheet size at nearly the same time and started melting 19,000 years ago.

Global warming creates 'new normal' in Arctic   MSNBC - December 2, 2011
Global warming has brought a "new normal" to the Arctic, with warmer air and ocean temperatures, thinner and less expansive summer sea ice, and greener vegetation in coastal regions abutting the open water. In addition, longer periods of open water during the annual sea-ice melt season is allowing the ocean to take up more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, leading to seasonal bouts of ocean acidification in some areas.

Arctic sea ice reaches minimum 2011 extent, making it second lowest in satellite record   PhysOrg - September 15, 2011
The blanket of sea ice that floats on the Arctic Ocean appears to have reached its lowest extent for 2011, the second lowest recorded since satellites began measuring it in 1979, according to the University of Colorado Boulder's National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Mummified Forest Found on Treeless Arctic Island   National Geographic - December 21, 2010

Pines, spruces buried in landslide millions of years ago, when area was warmer. An ancient mummified forest, complete with well-preserved logs, leaves, and seedpods, has been discovered deep in the Canadian Arctic, scientists say. The dry, frigid site is now surrounded by glaciers and is completely treeless, except for a few bonsai-size dwarf trees. The forest was discovered recently by a research team who'd heard a surprising story from rangers in Quttinirpaaq National Park. The park is located on Ellesmere Island (see map), one of the world's northernmost landmasses. The rangers had come across wood scattered on the ground from much larger trees than the few dwarfs currently in the area, including logs that were several feet long.

Hippo-like Mammals Once Basked in Toasty Arctic   Live Science - September 11, 2010

The climate in some Arctic locales sometimes never dipped below freezing some 50 million years ago, scientists now reveal.

Arctic rocks may contain oldest remnants of Earth   BBC - August 11, 2010

Scientists have found Arctic rocks that may preserve the earliest remnants of Earth. Over billions of years, much of the material that made up the early Earth was modified by processes such as melting and mixing. But the Arctic rocks seem to contain chemical signatures that date from just after the Earth's violent origin.

Ancient Tools Revealed by Melting Arctic Ice   Live Science - April 27, 2010

Ice Patch Archaeology is a recent phenomenon that began in Yukon. In 1997, sheep hunters discovered a 4,300-year-old dart shaft in caribou dung that had become exposed as the ice receded. Scientists who investigated the site found layers of caribou dung buried between annual deposits of ice. They also discovered a repository of well-preserved artifacts.

Massive Devon Island Ice Cap Is Shrinking, Study Shows; Rate Accelerating Since 1985   Science Daily - April 13, 2010

Trees invading warming Arctic will cause warming over entire region, study shows   PhysOrg - January 12, 2010
Contrary to scientists' predictions that, as the Earth warms, the movement of trees into the Arctic will have only a local warming effect, University of California, Berkeley, scientists modeling this scenario have found that replacing tundra with trees will melt sea ice and greatly enhance warming over the entire Arctic region.

Record Migration: Small Birds Travel 50,000 Miles   Live Science - January 12, 2010

Some birds make long treks south during wintertime, but the Artic tern bests them all, flying on average 44,000 miles (70,900 km) on its annual migration from pole to pole, according to a new study. The shortest journey recorded for the tern was 36,900 miles (59,500 km) and the longest 50,700 miles (81,600 km). The study confirms what has been supposed for decades - the Arctic tern has the longest annual migration of any animal in the world. When added up over a lifetime, the total journey for the bird is the equivalent of three trips to the moon and back.

Time-Lapse Photos Show Dramatic Erosion of Alaska/Arctic Coastline   Live Science - December 14, 2009

Time-lapse photography of crumbling Alaskan coastlines is helping scientists understand the "triple whammy" of forces eroding the local landscape: declining sea ice, warming ocean waters and more poundings by waves. The erosion rates from these forces are greater than anything seen along the world's coastlines, with the coast midway between Alaska's Point Barrow and Prudhoe Bay falling into the ocean in the inland direction by up to one-third the length of a football field annually, scientists have found.

"Alien" Jellyfish Found in Arctic Deep   National Geographic - December 12, 2009

Strange jellies of the icy depths   BBC - September 1, 2009

New details are emerging about the life-forms that survive in one of the world's most inaccessible places. Scientists have published descriptions of a range of jelly-like animals that inhabit the deep oceans of the Arctic. The animals were originally filmed and photographed during a series of submersible dives in 2005. One of the biggest surprises is that one of the most common animals in the Arctic deep sea is a type of jellyfish that is completely new to science. The deep Arctic ocean is isolated from much of the water elsewhere on the globe.

Arctic climate under greenhouse conditions in the Late Cretaceous   PhysOrg - July 9, 2009
New evidence for ice-free summers with intermittent winter sea ice in the Arctic Ocean during the Late Cretaceous - a period of greenhouse conditions - gives a glimpse of how the Arctic is likely to respond to future global warming.

53 million-year-old high Arctic mammals wintered in darkness   PhysOrg - June 1, 2009
Ancestors of tapirs and ancient cousins of rhinos living above the Arctic Circle 53 million years ago endured six months of darkness each year in a far milder climate than today that featured lush, swampy forests, according to a new study led by the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Odd, Identical Species Found at Both Poles National Geographic - February 15, 2009

Ice oceans 'are not poles apart' BBC - February 15, 2009
At least 235 marine species are living in both polar regions, despite being 12,000km apart, a census has found.
Same Species Found at Both Ends of Earth Live Science - February 15, 2009

Arctic Ice in "Death Spiral," Is Near Record Low National Geographic - September 17, 2008
The Arctic Ocean's sea ice has shrunk to its second smallest area on record, close to 2007's record-shattering low, scientists report. The ice is in a "death spiral" and may disappear in the summers within a couple of decades, according to Mark Serreze, an Arctic climate expert at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.

Boiling Hot Water Found in Frigid Arctic Sea Live Science - July 24, 2008

Many miles inside the Arctic Circle, scientists have found elusive vents of scalding liquid rising out of the seafloor at temperatures that are more than twice the boiling point of water. The cluster of five hydrothermal vents, also called black smokers, were discovered farther north than any others previously identified. The vents, one of which towers four stories high, are located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge between Greenland and Norway, more than 120 miles farther north than other known vents.

U.S. Study: Arctic Loaded with Oil and Gas Live Science - July 24, 2008
The unexplored Arctic contains about one-fifth of the world's undiscovered oil and nearly a third of the natural gas yet to be found, according to a new study. The untapped reserves are beneath the seafloor in geopolitically controversial areas above the Arctic Circle.

Distant Wildfires Cause Arctic Cooling Discovery - July 22, 2008
It's hard to imagine that the raging blazes of wildfires could cool things down, but that is the conclusion of a new study. Robert Stone of the University of Colorado, Boulder, and colleagues report that wildfire smoke that reaches the Arctic has the net effect of cooling the surface by reducing the amount of sunlight that makes it through. The effect of smoke and other aerosol particles in the atmosphere is a large source of uncertainty in climate models. The new work removes some of that uncertainty.

Volcanoes erupting beneath Arctic ice MSNBC - June 28, 2008

New evidence deep beneath the Arctic ice suggests that a series of underwater volcanoes have erupted in violent explosions in the past decade. Hidden 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) beneath the Arctic surface, the volcanoes can range up to more than a mile (2 kilometers) in diameter and a few hundred yards (meters) tall. They formed along the Gakkel Ridge, a lengthy crack in the ocean crust where two rocky plates are spreading apart, pulling new melted rock to the surface. Until now, scientists thought undersea volcanoes only dribbled lava from cracks in the seafloor. The extreme pressure from the overlying water makes it difficult for gas and magma to blast outward. But the Gakkel Ridge, which is relatively unexplored and considered unique for its slow spreading rate, is just the place for surprises.

Arctic Volcanoes Found Active at Unprecedented Depths National Geographic - June 27, 2008
Buried under thick ice and frigid water, volcanic explosions are shaking the Arctic Ocean floor at depths previously thought impossible, according to a new study. Using robot-operated submarines, researchers have found deposits of glassy rock - evidence of eruptions - scattered over more than 5 square miles (15 square kilometers) of the seabed.

Ice diary: Science in the fast-changing Arctic BBC - June 27, 2008
Liz Kalaugher reports from the High Arctic as she travels aboard the Amundsen, a Canadian Coast Guard vessel. She has joined an expedition investigating the effects of climate change off Banks Island.

   Vast cracks appear in Arctic ice BBC - May 23, 2008
Dramatic evidence of the break-up of the Arctic ice-cap has emerged from research during an expedition by the Canadian military. Scientists traveling with the troops found major new fractures during an assessment of the state of giant ice shelves in Canada's far north. The team found a network of cracks that stretched for more than 10 miles (16km) on Ward Hunt, the area's largest shelf.

Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, Largest In Northern Hemisphere, Has Fractured Into Three Main Pieces Science Daily - April 17, 2008

A team of scientists including polar expert Dr. Derek Mueller from Trent University and Canadian Rangers have discovered that the largest ice shelf in the Northern Hemisphere has fractured into three main pieces. During their sovereignty patrol across the northernmost parts of Canada over the last two weeks, they visited a new 18 kilometre-long network of cracks running from the southern edge of the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf to the Arctic Ocean. This accompanies a large central fracture that was first detected in 2002, and raises the concern that the remaining ice shelf will disintegrate within the next few years.

Mysterious "Rain on Snow" Events Tracked in Arctic National Geographic - March 4, 2008
A few warm, springlike days might sound appealing if you live in the frigid Arctic Circle. But a rise in temperature can spell doom for native peoples and the caribou, musk-oxen, and reindeer that they depend on in Earth's northernmost regions. That's because a mysterious phenomenon known as "rain on snow," when sudden warm air turns northern snows to rain or slush, can cause animals to starve. Rather than melting the snow, rain seeps through the snowpack and pools on top of the frozen soil. nWhen the extreme cold returns, the water freezes into an impermeable shell that prevents animals from grazing.

   Svalbard's giant cold store Guardian - February 26, 2008
   Arctic Seed Vault Opens National Geographic - February 26, 2008
Svalbard Global Seed Vault: Seed-Protecting "Doomsday" Vault Opens National Geographic - February 26, 2008

Giant "Sea Monster" Fossil Discovered in Arctic - National Geographic - February 27, 2008

The 150-million-year-old creature was first discovered in 2006 on Spitsbergen, part of Norway's Svalbard archipelago, in a polar wasteland littered with fossilized sea reptiles.
Sea reptile is biggest on record BBC - February 27, 2008

A fossilized "sea monster" unearthed on an Arctic island is the largest marine reptile known to science, Norwegian scientists have announced. The 150 million-year-old specimen was found on Spitspergen, in the Arctic island chain of Svalbard, in 2006.

Rich life emerges from nature's freezer BBC - December 27, 2007
Tiny channels in the Arctic ice support creatures that play a crucial role in climate-affected ecosystems. The Arctic ice supports, literally, the polar bear, a half-tonne behemoth of creamy-white fur and muscle and claws you would not argue with. It is highly visible and hugely iconic. But just as the tiger and the rhinoceros depend on creatures you cannot see without a microscope and would not willingly give house room to if you could, so does the polar bear stand, literally, on a patchwork lattice of invisible, miniscule life. Life-forms such as polychaetes (or bristleworms), copepods and amphipods that live just under the ice, around its edge, or even inside the floes themselves.

McCall melt links the Arctic eras BBC - December 26, 2007
"Sometimes you'd just land and set up your equipment," recalls Carl Benson, "and the pilot sees clouds rolling in and says 'I'd better get out of here, do you want to come with me or do you want to stay'? "So you push the 'plane round so they can take off, and you don't know when you're going to see them again." Dr Benson is one of a band of scientists hardier than most who have spent decades working to understand the finer workings of glaciers.

The dramatic springtime collapse of surface ozone in the Arctic has been documented by scientists BBC - December 14, 2007 The dramatic springtime collapse of surface ozone in the Arctic has been documented by scientists. Observations from a boat that drifted with the ice across the North Pole show the gas can disappear in just days. Dr Jan Bottenheim told a US conference that the precise chemical reactions involved were not fully understood. However, he said any changes to these processes as the Arctic warmed might limit the region's ability to deal with pollutants in the atmosphere. "Ozone is the source for the 'vacuum cleaner of the atmosphere' - the molecule OH. So if we don't have as much ozone, we can't make as much hydroxyl. If we then pump pollutants from mid-latitudes into the Arctic, they may just stay there," explained Dr Bottenheim.

Arctic summers ice-free 'by 2013' BBC - December 12, 2007
Scientists in the US have presented one of the most dramatic forecasts yet for the disappearance of Arctic sea ice. Their latest modelling studies indicate northern polar waters could be ice-free in summers within just 5-6 years.

Warming 'opens Northwest Passage' BBC - September 14, 2007

The most direct shipping route from Europe to Asia is fully clear of ice for the first time since records began. Historically, the Northwest Passage linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans has been ice-bound through the year. But the agency says ice cover has been steadily shrinking, and this summer's reduction has made the route navigable. The findings, based on satellite images, raised concerns about the speed of global warming.

Surprise New Arctic Inhabitants: Trees Live Science - March 9, 2007

Rising temperatures fueled by global warming are causing forests of spruce trees to invade Arctic tundra faster than scientists originally thought, evicting and endangering the species that dwell there and only there, a new study concludes.Tundra is land area where tree growth is inhibited by low temperatures and a short growing season. In the Arctic, the tundra is dominated by permafrost, a layer of permanently frozen subsoil.

'Monster' fossil find in Arctic BBC - October 5, 2006

Norwegian scientists have discovered a "treasure trove" of fossils belonging to giant sea reptiles that roamed the seas at the time of the dinosaurs. The 150-million-year-old fossils were uncovered on the Arctic island chain of Svalbard - about halfway between the Norwegian mainland and the North Pole. The finds belong to two groups of extinct marine reptiles - the plesiosaurs and the ichthyosaurs.

Arctic's tropical past uncovered BBC - May 31, 2006

Fifty-five million years ago the North Pole was an ice-free zone with tropical temperatures, according to research.