Missing image
The red line indicates the 10C isotherm in July, commonly used to define the Arctic region border

The Arctic is the area around the Earth's North Pole. The Arctic includes parts of Russia, Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Lapland, and Norway (including Svalbard), as well as the Arctic Ocean. There are many definitions for the Arctic region. The boundary is generally considered to be north of the Arctic Circle (66 33N), which is the limit of the midnight sun and the polar night. Other definitions are based on climate and ecology, such as the 10°C (50°F) July isotherm, which also roughly corresponds to the treeline in most of the Arctic. Socially and politically, the Arctic region includes the northern territories of the eight Arctic states, although by natural science definitions much of this territory is considered the subarctic region.

The Arctic region is by its nature a unique area. The cultures in the region and the Arctic indigenous peoples have adapted to its cold and extreme conditions. From the perspective of the physical, chemical and biological balance in the world, the Arctic region is in a key position. It reacts sensitively particularly to changes in the climate, which reflect extensively back on the global state of the environment. From the perspective of research into climatic change, the Arctic region is considered a so-called-early warning system.

The Arctic is also known as the Land of the Midnight Sun as it is within the Arctic Circle. The name Arctic comes from the ancient Greek αρκτος, meaning 'bear', and is a reference to the constellations of the Great Bear and Little Bear, which are located near the North Star (which is actually part of the Little Bear).


Nature and natural resources

Nature in the Arctic is comparatively clean although there are certain ecologically difficult localized pollution problems that present a serious threat to peoples health living around these pollution sources. Due to the prevailing worldwide sea and air currents, the Arctic area is the fall out region for long-range transport pollutants and in some places the concentrations exceed the levels of densely populated urban areas.

The Arctic region includes sizeable potential natural resources (oil, gas, minerals, forest and fish) to which modem technology and the opening up of Russia have given significant new opportunities. The interest of the tourism industry in the cold and exotic Arctic is also on the increase. This is for example, seen in the rise in international tourism as a significant opportunity but also as a threat.

The Arctic region 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 people 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.

External link: AMAP - the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (

Arctic cultures

Also noteworthy is the fact that a significant proportion of the population in the region are indigenous peoples (e.g. the Nenets, Koms, Khants and Sami) who practice subsistence livelihoods such as reindeer husbandry and fishing and whose rights are many times in jeopardy due to the development.

External link: Native peoples (

The changing Arctic

Along with increasing utilization, it is likely that in the coming decades, new investments, industry and building an infrastructure as well as the increasing mobility of goods, services, people and capital are to be expected. These will all have an effect on the environment of the region and on the local conditions of the population and indigenous peoples.

The above-described global change is expected to have the overwhelmingly large impact in the near future on the diversity of nature and cultures in the arctic and northern regions and on the recreational value of the Arctic and its natural resources. The impacts from the changes will reflect in many ways on the ecosystems of the region, its biodiversity, livelihoods, social and legal structures and indirectly on almost all life in the region.

The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) details some of the future scenarios for long-term climate change that are already begining to be seen in the Arctic region today.

External link: ACIA Report (

Environmental impact assessment

From the perspective of positive development in the Arctic region, an environmental impact assessment (EIA) is in a key position. In the Arctic region, it is important that in a process, special attention is given to assessing social impacts. It is generally known that scientific information focused on the Arctic region is insufficient, so the actors conducting an EIA do not get sufficient material in order to compile a precise assessment.

Developing a dialogue between new actors in the region, business life and the local population is important so that mutual understanding and often conflicting needs for development can be improved. Improving access to information by local inhabitants, well functioning participatory planning and ensuring the optimum use of its results are part of this activity. The horizontal processing of administration by different sectors in society that is required for an EIA necessitates for its support the production of strong multidisciplinary information. Managing and analyzing the above-mentioned multidimensional and demanding process requires combining many scientific fields and methods and further scientific analysis and development of functional models.

International cooperation and politics

The Arctic region is one of the important focuses 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 Council and its regional cooperation have compiled high quality information concerning the environment and the living conditions of the inhabitants in the Arctic. However, this information is still not widely known outside of these specialists and it is relatively hard to come by. At the same time, increasing multilateral interest focused on the Arctic region is being shown by, for instance, the European energy industry and tourism. Furthermore, the recently published alarming results from research on climate change have increased the interests towards Arctic by wide public and decision makers all around the world.

There has been an awareness of the shortcomings in disseminating information concerning the Arctic regions and the problem has been discussed lately at international conferences. The major effort within international Arctic science co-operation in coming years will be the research operation of International Polar Year during 2007-09. Information dissemination in different formats has been paid special attention in it. Also Arctic Council has been activated itself for information dissemination.

External link: Arctic Council (

A strategic military region

The Arctic has never been under the political control of any nation although some nations' militaries have attached a strategic importance to the region. In the 1950s and 1960s, the arctic was often used by submarines to test new weapons, sonar equipment, and depth testing.

During the Cold War, the Arctic region was extensively monitored by the United States military, since it was the opinion of the said military that the first warnings of a Soviet Union nuclear strike would have been indicated by ICBMs launched over the North Pole towards the United States. The United States placed such importance on the region that two military decorations, the Arctic Service Ribbon and Coast Guard Arctic Service Medal, were established for military duty performed within the arctic circle.


External links

See also

de:Arktis et:Arktika fa:شمالگان fi:Arktinen alue fr:Arctique it:Artide nl:Arctica ja:北極 nb:Arktis nn:Arktis pl:Arktyka pt:rtico ru:Арктика simple:Arctic sl:Arktika sv:Arktis


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