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Ice floes, pack ice, Arctic Ocean
Olaf Kruger/Imagebroker/Getty Images

The term Arctic is used to refer to the northernmost region of the Earth, including the area surrounding the North Pole. Countries which have part of their land in the Arctic zone include the United States, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.

Definition of the Arctic Region

According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the Arctic region is bounded to the north by the North Pole, and to the south by the latitude 66 degrees, 32 minutes North (this imaginary line forms the Arctic Circle). Above this latitude, the sun does not set on the summer solstice and does not rise on the winter solstice.

The Arctic may also be defined as the area north of the tree line (where trees cannot grow) or where daily average temperatures in the summer do not get higher than 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit). In the winter, the average temperature is minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Arctic region contains the Arctic Ocean, the ocean that surrounds the North Pole, and is mostly north of the Arctic Circle. This is the smallest of the Earth's oceans.

Arctic Animals

Although humans have lived in the Arctic for thousands of years, the cold temperatures make it seem inhospitable to many of us humans. However, this region teems with wildlife, including marine mammals such as whales and pinnipeds, fish, birds, and invertebrates.

Cold waters in the Arctic are nutrient rich, which support plankton blooms, which attract a whole food web of organisms, from zooplankton to large bowhead whales.

Antarctic Region

The opposite of Arctic is Antarctic, which refers to the southernmost region of the Earth, and the region around the South Pole (also an area with extreme cold). This is the realm of penquins, but not polar bears.

Pronunciation: ark-tick
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