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Northern Hemisphere permafrost (permanently frozen ground) in purple The Polar Regions, also called the frigid
zones Zone or The Zone may refer to: Places Climate and altitude zones * Death zone (originally the lethal zone), altitudes above a certain point where the amount of oxygen is insufficient to sustain human life for an extended time span * Frigid zone, a ...
, of
Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbour and support life. 29.2% of Earth's surface is land consisting of continents and islands. The remaining 70.8% is Water distribution on Earth, covered wit ...

Earth
are the
region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Earth and planets. The first person to use the wor ...

region
s of the planet that surround its
geographical pole A geographical pole or geographic pole is either of the two points on Earth where its axis of rotation Rotation around a fixed axis is a special case of rotational motion. The fixed- axis hypothesis excludes the possibility of an axis changin ...
s (the
North North is one of the four compass points or cardinal directions. It is the opposite of south and is perpendicular to East and West. ''North'' is a noun, adjective, or adverb indicating Direction (geometry), direction or geography. Etymology The ...
and
South Pole The South Pole, also known as the Geographic South Pole, Terrestrial South Pole or 90th Parallel South, is one of the two points where Earth's axis of rotation intersects its surface. It is the southernmost point on Earth and lies on the o ...
s), lying within the
polar circle A polar circle is a geographic term for a conditional circular line (arc) referring either to the Arctic Circle or the Antarctic Circle. These are two of the keynote circles of latitude (parallels). On Earth Earth is the third planet ...

polar circle
s. These high latitudes are dominated by floating
sea ice Sea ice arises as seawater freezes. Because ice is less dense than water, it floats on the ocean's surface (as does fresh water ice, which has an even lower density). Sea ice covers about 7% of the Earth's surface and about 12% of the world's ...
covering much of the
Arctic ocean The Arctic Ocean is the smallest and shallowest of the world's five major oceans. It spans an area of approximately and is also known as the coldest of all the oceans. The International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) recognizes it as an ocea ...

Arctic ocean
in the north, and by the
Antarctic ice sheet , showing glaciation A glacial period (alternatively glacial or glaciation) is an interval of time (thousands of years) within an ice age that is marked by colder temperatures and glacier A glacier ( or ) is a persistent body of dense ice ...
on the continent of
Antarctica Antarctica ( or ) is Earth's southernmost continent. It contains the geographic South Pole and is situated in the Antarctic region of the Southern Hemisphere, almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle, and is surrounded by the Southern Oce ...

Antarctica
in the South.


Definitions

The
Arctic The Arctic ( or ) is a polar regions of Earth, polar region located at the northernmost part of Earth. The Arctic consists of the Arctic Ocean, adjacent seas, and parts of Alaska (United States), Canada, Finland, Greenland (Danish Realm, Den ...

Arctic
has various definitions, including the region north of the
Arctic Circle The Arctic Circle is one of the two polar circle A polar circle is a geographic term for a conditional circular line (arc) referring either to the Arctic Circle or the Antarctic Circle. These are two of the keynote circles of latitude ( ...

Arctic Circle
(currently Epoch 2010 at 66°33'44" N), or the region north of 60° north latitude, or the region from the North Pole south to the
timberline
timberline
. The
Antarctic The Antarctic (US English or , UK English or and or ) is a polar region The polar regions, also called the frigid zones, of Earth are the regions of the planet that surround its geographical poles (the North North is one of t ...

Antarctic
is usually defined as south of 60° south latitude, or the continent of Antarctica. The 1959
Antarctic Treaty russian: link=no, Договор об Антарктике es, link=no, Tratado Antártico , name = Antarctic Treaty System , image = Flag of the Antarctic Treaty.svgborder , image_width = 180px , caption ...
uses the former definition. The two polar regions are distinguished from the other two climatic and biometric belts of Earth, a
tropics The tropics are the region of Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbor life. About 29% of Earth's surface is land consisting of continent A continent is one of several larg ...

tropics
belt near the equator, and two middle latitude regions located between the tropics and ''polar regions''.


Climate

Polar regions receive less intense
solar radiation Solar irradiance is the power per unit area received from the Sun in the form of electromagnetic radiation as measured in the wavelength In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowle ...
than the other parts of Earth because the sun's energy arrives at an
oblique angle In Euclidean geometry, an angle is the figure formed by two Ray (geometry), rays, called the ''sides'' of the angle, sharing a common endpoint, called the ''vertex (geometry), vertex'' of the angle. Angles formed by two rays lie in the plane (ge ...

oblique angle
, spreading over a larger area, and also travels a longer distance through the Earth's atmosphere in which it may be absorbed, scattered or reflected, which is the same thing that causes winters to be colder than the rest of the year in temperate areas. The
axial tilt In astronomy Astronomy (from el, ἀστρονομία, literally meaning the science that studies the laws of the stars) is a natural science that studies astronomical object, celestial objects and celestial event, phenomena. It uses mat ...
of the Earth has a major effect on climate of the polar regions. However, since the polar regions are the farthest from the
equator The Earth's equator is an imaginary planetary line that is about long in circumference. The equator divides the planet into the Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere and is located at 0 degrees latitude In geography, latitude is ...

equator
, they receive the weakest solar radiation and are therefore generally frigid year round due to the earth's axial tilt of 23.5° not being enough to create a high maximum midday
declination In astronomy Astronomy (from el, ἀστρονομία, literally meaning the science that studies the laws of the stars) is a natural science that studies astronomical object, celestial objects and celestial event, phenomena. It uses math ...
to sufficiently strengthen the sun's rays even in summer, except for relatively brief periods in peripheral areas near the polar circles. The large amount of ice and snow also reflects a large part of what weak sunlight the Polar regions receive, contributing to the cold. Polar regions are characterized by extremely cold temperatures, heavy
glaciation A glacial period (alternatively glacial or glaciation) is an interval of time (thousands of years) within an ice age An ice age is a long period of reduction in the temperature of Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the on ...
wherever there is sufficient
precipitation In meteorology Meteorology is a branch of the atmospheric sciences Atmospheric science is the study of the Earth's atmosphere File:Atmosphere gas proportions.svg, Composition of Earth's atmosphere by volume, excluding water vapor. L ...
to form permanent ice, and extreme variations in daylight hours, with
twenty-four hours of daylight
twenty-four hours of daylight
in summer, and
complete darkness
complete darkness
at
mid-winter
mid-winter
.


Circumpolar Arctic region

There are many settlements in Earth's north polar region. Countries with claims to Arctic regions are: the
United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., federal di ...

United States
(
Alaska Alaska (; ale, Alax̂sxax̂; ; ems, Alas'kaaq; Yup'ik The Yup'ik or Yupiaq (sg & pl) and Yupiit or Yupiat (pl), also Central Alaskan Yup'ik, Central Yup'ik, Alaskan Yup'ik ( own name ''Yup'ik'' sg ''Yupiik'' dual ''Yupiit'' pl; rus ...

Alaska
),
Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its Provinces and territories of Canada, ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocea ...

Canada
(
Yukon Yukon ( ; ; formerly called Yukon Territory and sometimes referred to as The Yukon) is the smallest and westernmost of Provinces and territories of Canada, Canada's three territories. It also is the least populated province or territory in Cana ...

Yukon
, the
Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories (commonly abbreviated as NT or NWT; french: Territoires du Nord-Ouest) is a federal provinces and territories of Canada, territory of Canada. At a land area of approximately and a 2016 census population of 41,790, it ...

Northwest Territories
and
Nunavut Nunavut ( ) ( iu, ᓄᓇᕗᑦ) is the newest, largest, and northernmost territory of Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its Provinces and territories of Canada, ten provinces and three territories exten ...
),
Denmark Denmark ( da, Danmark, ) is a Nordic countries, Nordic country in Northern Europe. It is the most populous and politically central Constituent state, constituent of the Danish Realm, Kingdom of Denmark, da, Kongeriget Danmark, a constitution ...

Denmark
(
Greenland Greenland ( kl, Kalaallit Nunaat, ; da, Grønland, ) is an Autonomous administrative division, autonomous territory* * * within the Danish Realm and the List of islands by area, world's largest island, located between the Arctic Ocean, Arcti ...

Greenland
),
Norway Norway, officially the Kingdom of Norway,Names in the official and recognised languages: Bokmål Bokmål (, ; literally "book tongue") is an official written standard for the Norwegian language, alongside Nynorsk. Bokmål is the preferred ...

Norway
,
Finland Finland ( fi, Suomi ; sv, Finland ), officially the Republic of Finland (; ), is a Nordic country in Northern Europe. It shares land borders with Sweden to the west, Russia to the east, Norway to the north, and is defined by the Gulf of Bo ...

Finland
,
Sweden Sweden ( sv, Sverige ), officially the Kingdom of Sweden ( sv, links=no, Konungariket Sverige ), is a Nordic countries, Nordic country in Northern Europe.The United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names states that the country's for ...

Sweden
,
Iceland Iceland ( is, Ísland; ) is a Nordic Nordic most commonly refers to: * Nordic countries, written in plural as Nordics, the northwestern European countries, including Scandinavia, Fennoscandia and the List of islands in the Atlantic Ocean#No ...

Iceland
, and
Russia Russia ( rus, link=no, Россия, Rossiya, ), or the Russian Federation, is a country spanning Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, largest country in the world, covering over , and encom ...

Russia
. Arctic circumpolar populations often share more in common with each other than with other populations within their national boundaries. As such, the northern polar region is diverse in human settlements and cultures.


Antarctica and the Southern sea

The southern polar region has no permanent human habitation.
McMurdo Station The McMurdo Station is a United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. sta ...

McMurdo Station
is the largest research station in
Antarctica Antarctica ( or ) is Earth's southernmost continent. It contains the geographic South Pole and is situated in the Antarctic region of the Southern Hemisphere, almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle, and is surrounded by the Southern Oce ...

Antarctica
, run by the
United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., federal di ...

United States
. Other notable stations include
Palmer Station Palmer Station is a United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, s ...
and
Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station The Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station is the United States scientific research station at the South Pole The South Pole, also known as the Geographic South Pole or Terrestrial South Pole, is one of the two points where Earth's axi ...
(United States),
Esperanza Base ("Permanence, an act of sacrifice") , pushpin_map = Antarctica , pushpin_map_alt = Location of Esperanza Base in Antarctica , pushpin_map_caption = Location of Esperanza Base in Antarctica , pushpin_mapsize = ...
and Marambio Base (
Argentina Argentina (), officially the Argentine Republic ( es, link=no, República Argentina), is a country located mostly in the southern half of South America. Sharing the bulk of the Southern Cone with Chile to the west, the country is also bordered b ...

Argentina
),
Scott Base Scott Base is a New Zealand New Zealand ( mi, Aotearoa ) is an island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It consists of two main landmasses—the North Island () and the South Island ()—and more than 700 List of islands of New ...
(
New Zealand New Zealand ( mi, Aotearoa ) is an island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It consists of two main landmasses—the North Island () and the South Island ()—and more than 700 List of islands of New Zealand, smaller islands, coveri ...

New Zealand
), and
Vostok Station Vostok Station (russian: ста́нция Восто́к, translit=stántsiya Vostók, , meaning "Station East") is a Russia Russia (russian: link=no, Россия, , ), or the Russian Federation, is a country spanning Eastern Europe ...
(Russia). While there are no indigenous human cultures, there is a complex ecosystem, especially along Antarctica's
coast The coast, also known as the coastline or seashore, is defined as the area where land meets the ocean The ocean (also the sea The sea, connected as the world ocean or simply the ocean The ocean (also the sea or the world ...

coast
al zones. Coastal
upwelling Upwelling is an oceanographic phenomenon that involves wind Wind is the flow of gases on a large scale. On the surface of the Earth, wind consists of the bulk movement of air. Winds are commonly classified by their scale (spatial), spatial ...

upwelling
provides abundant nutrients which feeds
krill Krill are small crustacean Crustaceans (Crustacea ) form a large, diverse arthropod An arthropod (, (gen. ποδός)) is an invertebrate animal having an exoskeleton, a Segmentation (biology), segmented body, and paired jointed appendages. ...

krill
, a type of marine
crustacea Crustaceans (Crustacea ) form a large, diverse arthropod An arthropod (, (gen. ποδός)) is an invertebrate animal having an exoskeleton, a Segmentation (biology), segmented body, and paired jointed appendages. Arthropods form the phylum Eua ...

crustacea
, which in turn feeds a complex of living creatures from penguins to blue whales.


See also

*
Cryosphere The cryosphere (from the Greek ''kryos'', "cold", "frost" or "ice" and ''sphaira'', "globe, ball") is an all-encompassing term for those portions of Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to ...


References


External links

*
The Polar Regions

International Polar Foundation

Arctic Environmental Atlas (UNDP)





Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge

WWF:The Polar Regions

World Environment Day 2007 "Melting Ice" image gallery at The Guardian

Polar Discovery


Further reading

* Victor, Paul-Émile. ''Man and the Conquest of the Poles'', trans. by Scott Sullivan. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1963. {{DEFAULTSORT:Polar Regions Of Earth Geography of Antarctica Arctic Ocean Geography of the Arctic Articles containing video clips