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Arctic, large, cold area of Earth around the North Pole. The Arctic includes the Arctic Ocean, many islands, and parts of the mainlands of North America, Asia, and Europe. The Arctic region is particularly sensitive to global warming and other climate change, and it has a major influence on climate and weather on the rest of the planet.

Scientists define the Arctic in a number of ways. Geographically, the Arctic is the area north of the Arctic Circle (latitude 6630' north) where 24 hours of daylight and 24 hours of night occur at least once a year. In terms of climate, the Arctic may be defined as the region north of the 10C (50F) summer isotherm. The summer isotherm is a line on a map drawn through locations with an average annual temperature of 0C (32F) or less and a mean temperature for the warmest summer month of 10C (50F). In addition, the Arctic may be defined as the region north of the tree line, the point beyond which trees do not grow. The summer isotherm and the tree line enclose roughly the same territory, which is somewhat larger than the region bounded by the Arctic Circle. The Arctic is also defined as the region where permafrost remains continuously frozen throughout the year. Oceanographers sometimes define the Arctic as the portion of the northern oceans that is covered with ice for at least part of the year.

The largest Arctic land areas are in Canada, Russia (including Siberia), Greenland (Kalaallit Nunaat), Scandinavia (in parts of northern Norway, Sweden, and Finland), Iceland, Alaska, and Svalbard and other islands.

The name Arctic derives from Greek arktos bear, referring to the constellation of the Great Bear (Ursa Major), which circles the North Star in the night sky.


Byles, Monica. Life in the Polar Lands. World Book, 1997. A beautifully illustrated introduction to all forms of polar life. For middle-school readers.

Houston, James A. Confessions of an Igloo Dweller. Houghton Mifflin, 1996. Memoir of a Canadian artist who lived for 14 years among the Inuit people of northern Canada.

Leonard, Linda Schierse. Creation's Heartbeat: Following the Reindeer Spirit. Bantam, 1995. An inspiring spiritual encounter with the reindeer and the peoples of the north who depend on them.

Norman, Howard A. Northern Tales: Stories from the Native Peoples of the Artic and Subarctic Regions. Pantheon, 1998. An anthology of stories from Greenland, Canada, Russia, and Alaska that capture everyday life in the Arctic.

Pielou, E. C. A Naturalist's Guide to the Arctic. University of Chicago Press, 1994. Written for naturalists and laypeople.

Slezkine, Yuri. Arctic Mirrors: Russia and the Small Peoples of the North. Cornell University Press, 1994. The story of the struggle of Russia's northern aboriginal population.

Woodworth, Lynn. Antarctica and the Arctic: The Complete Encyclopedia. Firefly, 2001. A thorough and authoritative guide to the world's two polar continents.

Alexander, Caroline. The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition. Random House, 1998. Exciting narrative of Shackleton's near-fatal odyssey, with photographs.

Berton, Pierre. Arctic Grail: The Quest for the North West Passage and the North Pole, 1818-1909. Viking, 1988. Lyons, 2000. Classic account of Arctic explorers and exploration during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Bryce, Robert M. Cook and Peary: The Polar Controversy, Resolved. Stackpole, 1997. Who reached the North Pole first? This work studiously examines the rival claims.

Calvert, Patricia. Robert E. Peary: To the Top of the World. Marshall Cavendish, 2001. For younger readers; grades 5 to 8.

Fleming, Fergus. Ninety Degrees North: The Quest for the North Pole. Grove, 2002. Tells of the major expeditions sent to the North Pole from 1845 to 1969.

Gurney, Alan. Below the Convergence: Voyages Toward Antarctica, 1699-1839. Norton, 1997. Penguin, 1998. Maritime adventures to the south polar lands and how captains and crews endured.

Huntford, Roland. The Last Place on Earth. Modern Library, 1999. The race to reach the South Pole, first published in 1979 as Scott and Amundsen.

Kimmel, Elizabeth Cody. Ice Story: Shackleton's Lost Expedition. Houghton, 1999. For younger readers, grades 4 to 8.

Ross, M. J. Polar Pioneers: John Ross and James Clark Ross. McGill-Queens University Press, 1994. Biography of two 19th-century British naval officers and their search for the Northwest Passage.

Vaughn, Norman D. With Byrd at the Bottom of the World. Stackpole, 1990. An account by a dog handler on Byrd's expedition from 1928 to 1930.


Microsoft Encarta 2009. 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.

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