Where is the Arctic?
What is at the 'top' of the world has fascinated people for a long time.
Even before Europeans knew what was to the north they speculated what
might be there as this Mercator map of 1595 shows. It was drawn from
existing maps, journeys of English explorers and Mercator's theories
on the location of the magnetic north pole.
There are many different definitions of the Arctic.
- The Arctic Circle is the latitude at which the sun does not set at the summer solstice, 66° 33' N
- The Arctic is the area above the tree line
- The boundary of the Arctic is the line at which the average temperature of the warmest month is 10C (summer isotherm)
- The Arctic is where the warm salty water of the Atlantic and Pacific meet the colder less salty waters of the Artic Ocean
- The Arctic is north of latitude 60°
Which of these definitions do you think is the right one?
How might the effects of climate change alter these definitions?
Download the Arctic Flora and Fauna: Status and Conservation report to help you with your research.
The map below shows the boundaries that have been used by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) and the Arctic Human Development Report (AHDR) in developing strategies for Arctic governance
Compiled by W.K. Dallmann, Norwegian Polar Institute
The AMAP boundary runs through latitude 50°N in North America. If this was the case in Western Europe, Britain would be in the Arctic!
Why is this not the case?
(here's a clue: look at the map of Ocean currents)
Oymyakon claims the record for the lowest temperature recorded in the northern hemisphere at -71.2°C in 1926. However this picture was taken at a less chilly-17°C in 2008. Temperatures during the month of January averages between -42°C and -50°C. What might be the cause of this phenomenon and is this settlement located in the Arctic?