AskDefine | Define arctic

Dictionary Definition

Arctic adj
1 at or near the north pole [syn: north-polar]
2 of or relating to the Arctic; "Arctic circle"
3 extremely cold; "an arctic climate"; "a frigid day"; "gelid waters of the North Atlantic"; "glacial winds"; "icy hands"; "polar weather" [syn: frigid, gelid, glacial, icy, polar]


1 the regions north of the Arctic Circle centered on the North Pole [syn: Arctic Zone, North Frigid Zone]
2 a waterproof overshoe that protects shoes from water or snow [syn: galosh, golosh, rubber, gumshoe]

User Contributed Dictionary

see arctic



From Ancient Greek ἀρκτικός, (of the Great Bear, Ursa Major).


Proper noun

  1. A region of the Earth above the Arctic Circle, containing the North Pole.


a region of the Earth above the Arctic Circle, containing the North Pole
  • Albanian: arktik
  • Finnish: arktinen alue
  • French: arctique
  • Hungarian: Arktisz
  • Ido: arktiko
  • Japanese: 北極 (hokkyoku)
  • Korean: 북극 (bukkeuk)
  • Russian: Арктика
  • Swedish: arktis
  • Romanian: Arctica

Extensive Definition

The Arctic 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 word arktos (άρκτος) , which means bear. This is due to the location of the constellation (a group of stars) Ursa Major, the "Great Bear", above the Arctic region.
There are numerous definitions of the Arctic region. The boundary is generally considered to be north of the Arctic Circle (66° 33’N), which is the approximate 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 roughly corresponds to the tree line in most of the Arctic. Socially and politically, the Arctic region includes the northern territories of the eight Arctic states, including Lapland, 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, frozen ground. In recent years the extent of the sea ice has declined, and there is some evidence suggesting Arctic water may be ice-free in summer. Some estimates suggest an ice-free summer Arctic by 2040, or 2100 while a more recent study accompanied by unexpected increased melting in summer 2007 estimates as soon as 2013..However according to the Norwegian International Polar Year Secretariat the Arctic polar ice cap would be completely gone by summer 2008 Life in the Arctic includes organisms living in the ice, fish and marine mammals, birds, land animals, and human societies.
The Arctic region is a unique area among Earth's ecosystems. The cultures in the region and the Arctic indigenous peoples have adapted to its cold and extreme conditions.



The Arctic's climate is characterized by cold winters and cool summers. Precipitation mostly comes in the form of snow. The Arctic's annual precipitation is low, with most of the area receiving less than 50 cm (20 inches). High winds often stir up snow, creating the illusion of continuous snowfall. Average winter temperatures can be as low as -40°C (-40°F), and the coldest recorded temperature is approximately -68°C (-90°F). Coastal Arctic climates are moderated by oceanic influences, having generally warmer temperatures and heavier snowfalls than the colder and drier interior areas.


Since trees cannot grow in the Arctic climate, the vegetation is composed of plants such as dwarf shrubs, graminoids, herbs, lichens and mosses, which all grow relatively close to the ground, forming tundra. As one moves northward, the amount of warmth available for plant growth decreases considerably. In the northernmost areas, plants are at their metabolic limits, and small differences in the total amount of summer warmth make large differences in the amount of energy available for maintenance, growth and reproduction. Colder summer temperatures cause the size, abundance, productivity and variety of plants to decrease. In the warmest parts of the Arctic, shrubs are common and can reach 2 m (6 ft) in height; sedges, mosses and lichens can form thick layers. In the coldest parts of the Arctic, much of the ground is bare; nonvascular plants such as lichens and mosses predominate, along with a few scattered grasses and forbs (like the Arctic poppy).


Herbivores on the tundra include the Arctic hare, lemming, muskox, and caribou. They are preyed on by the Arctic fox, wolves. The polar bear is also a predator, though it prefers to hunt for marine life from the ice. There are also many birds and marine species endemic to the colder regions. Other animals in the Arctic include wolverines, ermines, lemmings, arctic hares, arctic ground squirrels, seals and walrus'.

Natural resources

The Arctic region includes sizable potential natural resources (oil, gas, minerals, forest – if the subarctic is included – and fish) to which modern 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.
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 humans 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.


During the Cretaceous, the Arctic still had seasonal snows, though only a light dusting and not enough to permanently hinder plant growth. Animals such as Chasmosaurus, Hypacrosaurus, Troodon, and Edmontosaurus may have all migrated north to take advantage of the summer growing season, and migrated south to warmer climes when the winter came. A similar situation may also have been found amongst dinosaurs that lived in Antarctic regions, such as Muttaburrasaurus of Australia.

Indigenous population

The Inuit are the descendants of what anthropologists call the Thule culture, a nomadic people who emerged from western Alaska around 1000 CE and spread eastwards across the Arctic, displacing the related Dorset culture (in Inuktitut, the Tuniit). Inuit legends speak of the Tuniit as "giants", people who were taller and stronger than the Inuit, but who were easily scared off and retreated from the advancing Inuit. Researchers believe that the Dorset culture lacked dogs, boats and other technologies that gave the expanding Inuit society a large advantage over them. By 1300, the Inuit had settled west Greenland, and finally moved into east Greenland over the following century.
The Tuniit survived in Aivilik, Southampton and Coats Islands, until the beginning of the 20th century. They were known as Sadlermiut (Sallirmiut in the modern spelling). Their population had been ravaged by diseases brought by contact with Europeans, and the last of them fell in a flu epidemic caught from a passing whaler in 1902. The area has since been resettled by Inuit. Genetic research suggests that there was little or no intermarriage between the Tuniit and the Inuit over the thousand years of contact in the Canadian Arctic.

International cooperation and politics

The Arctic region is a focus 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 on the Arctic.

Territorial claims

No country owns the North Pole or the region of the Arctic Ocean surrounding it. The surrounding Arctic states, the United States, Canada, Russia, Norway and Denmark (via Greenland), are limited to a 370 kilometre (200 nautical mile) economic zone around their coasts.
Upon ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, a country has ten years to make claims to extend its 200 mile zone. Due to this, Norway (ratified the convention in 1996), Russia (ratified in 1997(See 2007 Russian North Pole expedition)

A strategic military region

Some countries claim the Arctic has never been under the political control of any nation, although some nations' militaries have attached a strategic importance to the region. Canada has an outpost in the region (Alert) and has long laid claim to much of the Arctic. Several recent excursions by the Canadian navy have taken place, with more planned to underline Canadian sovereignty in the region. On July 9th, 2007, Canada's prime minister Stephen Harper announced that Canada will build up to eight armed patrol ships with helicopter pads and a deep water port at a location yet to be disclosed to reassert Canada's sovereignty over Arctic territories.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the Arctic was often used by submarines to test new weapons, sonar equipment, and depth capability. During the Cold War, the Arctic region was extensively monitored by the United States military and NATO, since it was believed that the first warnings of a nuclear strike from the Soviet Union 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.
In 2006, Envisat and EOS Aqua revealed a polar route connecting Spitsbergen and Siberia. Increased Russian activity has also been detected, though this can be attributed to the Chelyuskin icebreaker wreck expeditionary force.

Scientific exploration

Since 1937 the whole Arctic region was extensively explored by the Soviet and Russian manned drifting ice stations. Scientific settlements that were established on the drift ice were carried thousands of kilometers by the ice flow.


The Arctic is comparatively clean, although there are certain ecologically difficult localized pollution problems that present a serious threat to people’s health living around these pollution sources. Due to the prevailing worldwide sea and air currents, the Arctic area is the fallout region for long-range transport pollutants, and in some places the concentrations exceed the levels of densely populated urban areas. An example of this is the phenomenon of Arctic haze, which is commonly blamed on long-range pollutants. Another example is with the bioaccumulation of PCB's [polychlorinated biphenyls] in Arctic wildlife.

In popular culture


External links

arctic in Arabic: أركتيك
arctic in Belarusian: Арктыка
arctic in Bulgarian: Арктика
arctic in Czech: Arktida
arctic in Welsh: Yr Arctig
arctic in Danish: Arktis
arctic in German: Arktis
arctic in Estonian: Arktika
arctic in Modern Greek (1453-): Αρκτική
arctic in Spanish: Ártico
arctic in Esperanto: Arkto
arctic in Persian: شمالگان
arctic in Faroese: Arktis
arctic in French: Arctique
arctic in Galician: Ártico
arctic in Korean: 북극
arctic in Croatian: Arktik
arctic in Igbo: Arctic
arctic in Indonesian: Arktik
arctic in Icelandic: Norðurslóðir
arctic in Italian: Artide
arctic in Hebrew: האזור הארקטי
arctic in Kannada: ಆರ್ಕ್ಟಿಕ
arctic in Georgian: არქტიკა
arctic in Latvian: Arktika
arctic in Lithuanian: Arktis
arctic in Hungarian: Arktisz
arctic in Malay (macrolanguage): Artik
arctic in Dutch: Arctis
arctic in Japanese: 北極
arctic in Norwegian: Arktis
arctic in Norwegian Nynorsk: Arktis
arctic in Polish: Arktyka
arctic in Portuguese: Ártico
arctic in Russian: Арктика
arctic in Simple English: Arctic
arctic in Slovak: Arktída
arctic in Slovenian: Arktika
arctic in Serbo-Croatian: Arktik
arctic in Finnish: Arktinen alue
arctic in Swedish: Arktis
arctic in Thai: อาร์กติก
arctic in Tonga (Tonga Islands): ʻĀketika
arctic in Turkish: Arktik
arctic in Ukrainian: Арктика
arctic in Chinese: 北极地区

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Siberian, aestival, affectless, algid, anesthetized, antarctic, austral, autistic, autumn, autumnal, below zero, biting, bitter, bitterly cold, bleak, blunt, boreal, brisk, brumal, canicular, catatonic, chill, chilly, cold, cold as charity, cold as death, cold as ice, cold as marble, cold-blooded, coldhearted, cool, crisp, cutting, dispassionate, drugged, dull, east, eastbound, easterly, eastermost, eastern, easternmost, emotionally dead, emotionless, equinoctial, freezing, freezing cold, frigid, frosted, frosty, frozen, gelid, glacial, heartless, hibernal, hiemal, hyperborean, ice-cold, ice-encrusted, icelike, icy, immovable, impassible, impassive, inclement, inexcitable, insusceptible, keen, meridional, midsummer, midwinter, nipping, nippy, nonemotional, north, northbound, northeast, northeasterly, northeastern, northerly, northern, northernmost, northwest, northwesterly, northwestern, numbing, objective, obtuse, occidental, oriental, out of season, out of touch, passionless, penetrating, piercing, pinching, raw, rigorous, seasonal, self-absorbed, severe, sharp, sleety, slushy, snappy, solstitial, soulless, south, southbound, southeast, southeasterly, southeastern, southerly, southern, southernmost, southwest, southwesterly, southwestern, spiritless, spring, springlike, stone-cold, subzero, summer, summerlike, summerly, summery, supercooled, unaffectionate, unemotional, unfeeling, unimpassioned, unimpressionable, unloving, unpassionate, unresponding, unresponsive, unsusceptible, unsympathetic, untouchable, vernal, west, westbound, westerly, western, westernmost, winter, winterbound, winterlike, wintery, wintry
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