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Arctic Ocean

 

Arctic Ocean
Introduction Arctic Ocean
-------------------------
Background: The Arctic Ocean is the smallest of
the world's five oceans (after the
Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean,
Indian Ocean, and the recently
delimited Southern Ocean). The
Northwest Passage (US and Canada)
and Northern Sea Route (Norway and
Russia) are two important seasonal
waterways. A sparse network of air,
ocean, river, and land routes
circumscribes the Arctic Ocean.

Geography Arctic Ocean
----------------------
Location: body of water between Europe, Asia,
and North America, mostly north of
the Arctic Circle
Geographic coordinates: 90 00 N, 0 00 E
Map references: Arctic Region
Area: total: 14.056 million sq km
note: includes Baffin Bay, Barents
Sea, Beaufort Sea, Chukchi Sea, East
Siberian Sea, Greenland Sea, Hudson
Bay, Hudson Strait, Kara Sea, Laptev
Sea, Northwest Passage, and other
tributary water bodies
Area - comparative: slightly less than 1.5 times the
size of the US
Coastline: 45,389 km
Climate: polar climate characterized by
persistent cold and relatively
narrow annual temperature ranges;
winters characterized by continuous
darkness, cold and stable weather
conditions, and clear skies; summers
characterized by continuous
daylight, damp and foggy weather,
and weak cyclones with rain or snow
Terrain: central surface covered by a
perennial drifting polar icepack
that averages about 3 meters in
thickness, although pressure ridges
may be three times that size;
clockwise drift pattern in the
Beaufort Gyral Stream, but nearly
straight-line movement from the New
Siberian Islands (Russia) to Denmark
Strait (between Greenland and
Iceland); the icepack is surrounded
by open seas during the summer, but
more than doubles in size during the
winter and extends to the encircling
landmasses; the ocean floor is about
50% continental shelf (highest
percentage of any ocean) with the
remainder a central basin
interrupted by three submarine
ridges (Alpha Cordillera, Nansen
Cordillera, and Lomonosov Ridge)
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Fram Basin -4,665 m
highest point: sea level 0 m
Natural resources: sand and gravel aggregates, placer
deposits, polymetallic nodules, oil
and gas fields, fish, marine mammals
(seals and whales)
Natural hazards: ice islands occasionally break away
from northern Ellesmere Island;
icebergs calved from glaciers in
western Greenland and extreme
northeastern Canada; permafrost in
islands; virtually ice locked from
October to June; ships subject to
superstructure icing from October to
May
Environment - current issues: endangered marine species include
walruses and whales; fragile
ecosystem slow to change and slow to
recover from disruptions or damage;
thinning polar icepack
Geography - note: major chokepoint is the southern
Chukchi Sea (northern access to the
Pacific Ocean via the Bering
Strait); strategic location between
North America and Russia; shortest
marine link between the extremes of
eastern and western Russia; floating
research stations operated by the US
and Russia; maximum snow cover in
March or April about 20 to 50
centimeters over the frozen ocean;
snow cover lasts about 10 months



Economy Arctic Ocean
--------------------
Economy - overview: Economic activity is limited to the
exploitation of natural resources,
including petroleum, natural gas,
fish, and seals.


Transportation Arctic Ocean
---------------------------
Ports and harbors: Churchill (Canada), Murmansk
(Russia), Prudhoe Bay (US)
Transportation - note: sparse network of air, ocean, river,
and land routes; the Northwest
Passage (North America) and Northern
Sea Route (Eurasia) are important
seasonal waterways


Transnational Issues Arctic Ocean
---------------------------------
Disputes - international: some maritime disputes (see littoral
states); Russia is the first state
to submit data to the UN Commission
on the Limits of the Continental
Shelf to extend its continental
shelf by claiming two undersea
ridges in the Arctic Ocean
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