Your Arctic


Maps of the Arctic

What, exactly, is the Arctic?

The Arctic (pronounced /ˈɑrktɪk/) 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 αρκτικός (arktikos), “near the Bear, arctic, northern” and that from the word άρκτος (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.

The Arctic region can be defined as the area north of the Arctic Circle (66° 33’N), which is the approximate limit of the midnight sun and the polar night. Alternatively, it can be defined as the region where the average temperature for the warmest month (July) is below 10 °C (50 °F); the northernmost tree line roughly follows the isotherm at the boundary of this region. 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.

This text was taken and adapted from the Wikipedia article about the Arctic (19 June, 2009).

Some of the major studies, strategies and plans for the region include:

  • Arctic Climate Impact Assessment
    An international project of the Arctic Council and the International Arctic Science Committee
  • Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy
    Includes the Declaration on the Protection of the Arctic Environment, signed in 1991 by the governments of Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States of America.
  • The Economy of the North
  • The objective of this chapter is to present a new and updated analysis of the circumpolar Arctic considered as a whole. This analysis is based on an update of most of the data published in the 2004 AHDR.2 It examines whether the conclusions reached then are still valid and, in some cases, it proceeds further in the investigation.
  • Arctic Regional Human Development Report
  • Based on contributions from some 90 scientists located in all the members of the Arctic Council and coordinated by a secretariat based at the Stefansson Arctic Institute in Akureyri, Iceland, the report offers a wide-ranging scientific assessment of achievements and challenges relating to human development in the Arctic.
  • For research of the region, consult our database of Research Organizations

Political organizations:

Learn more: