20 Interesting Facts About the Arctic Ocean

  1. The Arctic Ocean is the northernmost of the five oceans, while the North Pole lies in the middle of this ocean. Six countries (Russia, Norway, Iceland, Greenland (Denmark), Canada, and the USA) of three continents (Asia, Europe, and North America) surround the Arctic Ocean.
  2. Sea ice in the Arctic Ocean grows and shrinks during winter and summer. The ice reaches its maximum extent in March and shrinks to its minimum level in September annually.
  3. Warmer temperatures are responsible for the rapid shrinking of the Arctic ice. Satellite observations have measured Arctic ice each year since 1979. The summer Arctic ice is now shrinking at 12.2% per decade compared to its average shrinking from 1980 to 2010. Scientists measured the lowest summer Arctic extent (3.39 million square km) in September 2012. (Source)
  4. Storms in the Arctic Ocean usually occur in the winter. However, an extraordinary storm during the summer (August) of 2012 detached a large amount of ice from the ocean. The 2012 Arctic Cyclone contributed to the lowest-ever summer Arctic ice in September 2012. (Source)
  5. The Arctic Ocean receives the largest oceanic heat from the Atlantic Ocean, particularly affecting Arctic sea ice during winter. This water is now warmest in the past 2000 years and further heating the Arctic Ocean eastward than ever before. It resulted in the lowest-ever recorded Arctic sea ice extent during the winter of 2016/17. (Source)
  6. According to recent research, the summer Arctic sea ice can almost disappear in the 2030s after thousands of years, even if there is a sharp reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. However, thicker ice can remain intact for several years in parts of Canada and northern Greenland. This “blue ocean event” can result in further warming of the Arctic, rapid melting of Greenland ice sheets, global sea-level rise, and extreme rainfall and heat waves in other areas. (Source)
  7. The continuous and rapid melting of the Arctic sea ice has expanded shipping routes faster than previous expectations. According to the researchers, the area in the Arctic Ocean safe for vessels for 90 days has increased by 35% since 1979. These trans-Arctic routes can cut a distance of 9,000 km for a single trip between East Asia and Europe. (Source
    Shipping routes of the Arctic Ocean
    Expansion of Arctic shipping routes can cut distance between Asia and Europe

  8. After studying the remains of animals, plants, and algae, scientists estimate the Arctic Ocean was ice-free during summer 125,000 years ago. The Arctic ice was also less extensive 5,500 years ago than today during summertime. (Source)
  9. The Arctic is the smallest of all the oceans, comprising only 4.3% of the global ocean. Its average depth (1,205 m) is also far lower than any other ocean, while its deepest point is the Molloy Hole (nearly 5,550 m deep) between Svalbard (Norway) and Greenland.
  10. The Arctic Ocean is the least saline ocean, having a salinity level of 28-30 g/kg. The reasons behind this low salinity are its low rate of evaporation and the mixing of freshwater from ice caps. (Source)
  11. The Arctic region is less cold than the Antarctic because it primarily comprises the Arctic Ocean surrounded by land. Water absorbs more heat than air, and the Arctic Ocean’s surface temperature gets as low as -1.8 C. (Source)
  12. The Lomonosov Ridge, a 1,700 km-long submarine mountain range from Siberia to Canada, divides the Arctic Ocean into two basins, the Eurasia Basin and the Amerasia Basin. Three countries (Denmark, Russia, and Canada) claim the sovereignty of this mysterious mountain range. (Source)
  13. The Soviet Union dumped a large amount of uncontrolled and undocumented nuclear waste in the Arctic, particularly the Arctic Ocean, from 1946 to 1993. This radioactive waste in liquid and solid form is present in containers of all sizes and poses a significant risk to the environment of the ocean and regional countries. (Source)
  14. The Arctic Ocean is nearly 50 million years old. It was born after the opening of the Atlantic Basin towards the North.
  15. Icebergs in the Arctic Ocean are smaller and irregularly shaped than Antarctic bergs. These Arctic icebergs generally originate from Greenland and its adjacent islands.
  16. The Arctic Ocean experiences polar nights (the sun does not rise) during winter and midnight sun (continuous sunlight) during summer for several months. These natural phenomena play a vital role in the accumulation and melting of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean in different seasons.
  17. Beaufort Gyre, located north of Alaska (USA) and Yukon Territory (Canada), is a powerful wind-driven current in the Arctic Ocean that regulates climate and sea ice formation. The ice in this region is thicker than other parts of the Arctic Ocean and covers a large part of the ocean year-round. This gyre started to spin in an anti-clockwise direction every five to seven years during the second half of the 20th Century, expelling ice and freshwater into the east Arctic Ocean and North Atlantic. However, its usual clockwise direction has increased in over a decade, resulting in the collection of more freshwater than water in all Great Lakes. Scientists fear its expected counter-clockwise direction shortly can temporarily cool the climate of Iceland and northern Europe. (Source)
  18. The deep-sea floor of the Arctic Ocean is rich in animal life because most of the microscopic algae sink to the ocean floor due to the inactivity of plankton in winter and early spring. The animals at the bottom of this ocean include sea cucumbers, brittle stars, starfish, clams, snails, etc. (Source)
  19. The primary habitat for polar bears is the Arctic sea ice. However, this ice is disappearing as the temperature in this region is rising two to four times more than the global average. The melting of Arctic ice is increasing encounters between humans and bears. (Source)
  20. Five nations surrounding the central Arctic Ocean (Canada, USA, Russia, Denmark, and Norway) signed a declaration in 2015 to stop commercial fishing in this region. This declaration aimed to prevent unregulated fishing due to increasing Arctic sea ice melting and limited scientific knowledge of its marine life.

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