Arctic

The Arctic (/ˈɑːrktɪk/ or /ˈɑːrtɪk/)[1][Note 1] is a polar region located at the northernmost part of Earth. The Arctic consists of the Arctic Ocean, adjacent seas, and parts of Alaska (United States), Finland, Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Northern Canada, Norway, Russia and Sweden. Land within the Arctic region has seasonally varying snow and ice cover, with predominantly treeless permafrost (permanently frozen underground ice)-containing tundra. Arctic seas contain seasonal sea ice in many places.

The Arctic region is a unique area among Earth's ecosystems. For example, the cultures in the region and the Arctic indigenous peoples have adapted to its cold and extreme conditions. Life in the Arctic includes organisms living in the ice, zooplankton and phytoplankton, fish and marine mammals, birds, land animals, plants and human societies.[3] Arctic land is bordered by the subarctic.

Political Map of the Arctic.pdf
The nations with land within the Arctic region.
Arctic (orthographic projection)
Location of the Arctic
Arctica surface
Artificially coloured topographical map of the Arctic region
Sunny Skies over the Arctic in Late June 2010
MODIS image of the Arctic

Definition and etymology

The word Arctic comes from the Greek word ἀρκτικός (arktikos), "near the Bear, northern"[4] and that from the word ἄρκτος (arktos), meaning bear.[5] The name refers either to the constellation Ursa Major, the "Great Bear", which is prominent in the northern portion of the celestial sphere, or to the constellation Ursa Minor, the "Little Bear", which contains Polaris, the Pole star, also known as the North Star.[6]

There are a number of definitions of what area is contained within the Arctic. The area can be defined as north of the Arctic Circle (66° 33'N), the approximate southern limit of the midnight sun and the polar night. Another definition of the Arctic is the region where the average temperature for the warmest month (July) is below 10 °C (50 °F); the northernmost tree line roughly follows the isotherm at the boundary of this region.[7][8]

Climate

The Arctic's climate is characterized by cold winters and cool summers. Its precipitation mostly comes in the form of snow and is low, with most of the area receiving less than 50 cm (20 in). High winds often stir up snow, creating the illusion of continuous snowfall. Average winter temperatures can go 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. The Arctic is affected by current global warming, leading to Arctic sea ice shrinkage, diminished ice in the Greenland ice sheet, and Arctic methane release as the permafrost thaws.

Due to the poleward migration of the planet's isotherms (about 35 mi (56 km) per decade during the past 30 years as a consequence of global warming), the Arctic region (as defined by tree line and temperature) is currently shrinking.[9] Perhaps the most alarming result of this is Arctic sea ice shrinkage. There is a large variance in predictions of Arctic sea ice loss, with models showing near-complete to complete loss in September from 2040 to some time well beyond 2100. About half of the analyzed models show near-complete to complete sea ice loss in September by the year 2100.[10]

Flora and fauna

Arctic life is characterized by adaptation to short growing seasons with long periods of sunlight, and to cold, dark, snow-covered winter conditions.

Plants

Arctic vegetation is composed of plants such as dwarf shrubs, graminoids, herbs, lichens, and mosses, which all grow relatively close to the ground, forming tundra. An example of a dwarf shrub is the Bearberry. 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. Trees cannot grow in the Arctic, but in its warmest parts, shrubs are common and can reach 2 m (6 ft 7 in) in height; sedges, mosses and lichens can form thick layers. In the coldest parts of the Arctic, much of the ground is bare; non-vascular plants such as lichens and mosses predominate, along with a few scattered grasses and forbs (like the Arctic poppy).

Animals

Herbivores on the tundra include the Arctic hare, lemming, muskox, and caribou. They are preyed on by the snowy owl, Arctic fox, Grizzly bear, and Arctic wolf. 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 terrestrial animals include wolverines, moose, Dall sheep, ermines, and Arctic ground squirrels. Marine mammals include seals, walrus, and several species of cetaceanbaleen whales and also narwhals, killer whales, and belugas. An excellent and famous example of a ring species exists and has been described around the Arctic Circle in the form of the Larus gulls.

Natural resources

The Arctic includes sizable natural resources (oil, gas, minerals, fresh water, fish and if the subarctic is included, forest) to which modern technology and the economic opening up of Russia have given significant new opportunities. The interest of the tourism industry is also on the increase.

The Arctic contains some 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 breeding grounds of the animals that are characteristic to the region. The Arctic also holds 1/5 of the Earth's water supply.

Paleontology

During the Cretaceous time period, the Arctic still had seasonal snows, though only a light dusting and not enough to permanently hinder plant growth. Animals such as the 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 the Muttaburrasaurus of Australia.

However, others claim that dinosaurs lived year-round at very high latitudes, such as near the Colville River, which is now at about 70° N but at the time (70 million years ago) was 10° further north.[11]

Indigenous population

Circumpolar coastal human population distribution ca. 2009
Circumpolar coastal human population distribution c. 2009 (includes indigenous and non-indigenous).

The earliest inhabitants of North America's central and eastern Arctic are referred to as the Arctic small tool tradition (AST) and existed c. 2500 BC. AST consisted of several Paleo-Eskimo cultures, including the Independence cultures and Pre-Dorset culture.[12][13] The Dorset culture (Inuktitut: Tuniit or Tunit) refers to the next inhabitants of central and eastern Arctic. The Dorset culture evolved because of technological and economic changes during the period of 1050–550 BC. With the exception of the Quebec/Labrador peninsula, the Dorset culture vanished around 1500 AD.[14] Supported by genetic testing, evidence shows that descendants of the Dorset culture, known as the Sadlermiut, survived in Aivilik, Southampton and Coats Islands, until the beginning of the 20th century.[15]

The Dorset/Thule culture transition dates around the 9th–10th centuries. Scientists theorize that there may have been cross-contact of the two cultures with sharing of technology, such as fashioning harpoon heads, or the Thule may have found Dorset remnants and adapted their ways with the predecessor culture.[16] Others believe the Thule displaced the Dorset. By 1300, the Inuit, present-day Arctic inhabitants and descendants of Thule culture, had settled in west Greenland, and moved into east Greenland over the following century. Over time, the Inuit have migrated throughout the Arctic regions of Canada, Greenland, Russia, and the United States.[17]

Other Circumpolar North indigenous peoples include the Chukchi, Evenks, Inupiat, Khanty, Koryaks, Nenets, Sami, Yukaghir, Gwich'in, and Yupik. The Yupik still refer to themselves as Eskimo, which means "snowshoe netters", not "raw meat eaters" as it is sometimes mistakenly translated.[18]

International cooperation and politics

Polar bears near north pole
Polar bears on the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean, near the North Pole. USS Honolulu pictured.

The eight Arctic nations (Canada, Kingdom of Denmark [Greenland & The Faroe Islands], Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia, and USA) are all members of the Arctic Council, as are organizations representing six indigenous populations. The Council operates on consensus basis, mostly dealing with environmental treaties and not addressing boundary or resource disputes.

Though Arctic policy priorities differ, every Arctic nation is concerned about sovereignty/defense, resource development, shipping routes, and environmental protection.[19] Much work remains on regulatory agreements regarding shipping, tourism, and resource development in Arctic waters.[20]

Research in the Arctic has long been a collaborative international effort, evidenced by the International Polar Year. The International Arctic Science Committee, hundreds of scientists and specialists of the Arctic Council, and the Barents Euro-Arctic Council are more examples of collaborative international Arctic research.

Territorial claims

No country owns the geographic North Pole or the region of the Arctic Ocean surrounding it. The surrounding six Arctic states that border the Arctic Ocean—Canada, Kingdom of Denmark (with Greenland), Iceland, Norway, Russia, and the United States—are limited to a 200 nautical miles (370 km; 230 mi) exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off their coasts. Two Arctic states (Finland and Sweden) do not have direct access to the Arctic Ocean.

Upon ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, a country has ten years to make claims to an extended continental shelf beyond its 200 nautical mile zone.[19][21] Due to this, Norway (which ratified the convention in 1996),[22] Russia (ratified in 1997),[22] Canada (ratified in 2003)[22] and the Kingdom of Denmark (ratified in 2004)[22] launched projects to establish claims that certain sectors of the Arctic seabed should belong to their territories.

On 2 August 2007, two Russian bathyscaphes, MIR-1 and MIR-2, for the first time in history descended to the Arctic seabed beneath the North Pole and placed there a Russian flag made of rust-proof titanium alloy. The flag-placing during Arktika 2007 generated commentary on and concern for a race for control of the Arctic's vast hydrocarbon resources.[23]

Foreign ministers and other officials representing Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the United States met in Ilulissat, Greenland on 28 May 2008 at the Arctic Ocean Conference and announced the Ilulissat Declaration,[24][25] blocking any "new comprehensive international legal regime to govern the Arctic Ocean," and pledging "the orderly settlement of any possible overlapping claims."[19][26]

As of 2012, the Kingdom of Denmark is claiming the continental shelf based on the Lomonosov Ridge between Greenland and over the North Pole to the northern limit of the Russian EEZ.[27]

The Russian Federation is also claiming a large swath of seabed along the Lomonosov Ridge but, unlike Denmark, confined its claim to its side of the Arctic. In August 2015, Russia made a supplementary submission for the expansion of the external borders of its continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean, asserting that the eastern part of the Lomonosov Ridge and the Mendeleyev Ridge are an extension of the Eurasian continent. In August 2016, the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf began to consider Russia's submission.[28]

Exploration

Since 1937, the larger portion of the Asian-side Arctic region has been extensively explored by Soviet and Russian manned drifting ice stations. Between 1937 and 1991, 88 international polar crews established and occupied scientific settlements on the drift ice and were carried thousands of kilometers by the ice flow.[29]

Pollution

Contamination pathways large
Long-range pollution pathways to the Arctic

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 and people.

Preservation

There have been many proposals to preserve the Arctic over the years. Most recently a group of stars at the Rio Earth Summit, on 21 June 2012, proposed protecting the Arctic, similar to the Antarctic protection. The initial focus of the campaign will be a UN resolution creating a global sanctuary around the pole, and a ban on oil drilling and unsustainable fishing in the Arctic.[30]

Global warming

The effects of global warming in the Arctic include rising temperatures, loss of sea ice, and melting of the Greenland ice sheet. Potential methane release from the region, especially through the thawing of permafrost and methane clathrates, is also a concern. Because of the amplified response of the Arctic to global warming, it is often seen as a leading indicator of global warming. The melting of Greenland's ice sheet is linked to polar amplification.[31][32]

2007 Arctic Sea Ice
Arctic sea ice coverage as of 2007 compared to 2005 and compared to 1979–2000 average

The Arctic is especially vulnerable to the effects of any climate change, as has become apparent with the reduction of sea ice in recent years. Climate models predict much greater warming in the Arctic than the global average,[33] resulting in significant international attention to the region. In particular, there are concerns that Arctic shrinkage, a consequence of melting glaciers and other ice in Greenland, could soon contribute to a substantial rise in sea levels worldwide.[34]

The current Arctic warming is leading to fears of ancient carbon being released from thawing permafrost, leading to methane and carbon dioxide production by micro-organisms.[35] Release of methane and carbon dioxide stored in permafrost could cause abrupt and severe global warming,[36] as they are potent greenhouse gases.

Climate change is also predicted to have a large impact on Tundra vegetation, causing an increase of shrubs,[37] and having a negative impact on bryophytes and lichens.[38]

Apart from concerns regarding the detrimental effects of warming in the Arctic, some potential opportunities have gained attention. The melting of the ice is making the Northwest Passage, the shipping routes through the northernmost latitudes, more navigable, raising the possibility that the Arctic region will become a prime trade route.[39] One harbinger of the opening navigability of the Arctic took place in the summer of 2016 when the Crystal Serenity successfully navigated the Northwest Passage, a first for a large cruise ship.[40] In addition, it is believed that the Arctic seabed may contain substantial oil fields which may become accessible if the ice covering them melts.[41] These factors have led to recent international debates as to which nations can claim sovereignty or ownership over the waters of the Arctic.[42][43][44][45]

Fra Oshaugen
Eidsfjord in Vesterålen, Norway is 250 km (160 mi) inside the Arctic Circle, but the comparatively temperate Norwegian sea gives a mean annual temperature of 4 °C (39 °F) and a three-month summer above 10°C.[46]

Arctic waters

Arctic lands

Geographic Designation National Affiliation Designation
Alaska United States State
Aleutian Islands United States American Archipelago
Arkhangelsk Oblast Russia Federal subject
Canadian Arctic Archipelago Canada Canadian Archipelago
Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Russia Federal subject
Diomede Island (Big) Russia Island
Diomede Island (Little) United States Island
Finnmark Norway County
Franz Josef Land Russia Federal subject archipelago
Greenland Kingdom of Denmark Autonomous country
Grímsey Iceland Island
Jan Mayen Norway Island
Krasnoyarsk Krai Russia Federal subject
Lapland Finland Region
Lapland Sweden Province
Murmansk Oblast Russia Federal subject
Nenets Autonomous Okrug Russia Federal subject
New Siberian Islands Russia Archipelago
Nordland Norway County
Norrbotten Sweden Province
Northwest Territories Canada Territory
Novaya Zemlya Russia Federal subject archipelago
Nunavik Canada Northern part of Quebec
Nunavut Canada Territory
Russian Arctic islands Russia Islands
Sápmi Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia Fennoscandia region
Sakha Republic Russia Federal subject
Severnaya Zemlya Russia Federal subject archipelago
Siberia Russia Region
Svalbard Norway Governor of Svalbard archipelago
Troms Norway County
Yukon Canada Territory
Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug Russia Federal subject
Wrangel Island Russia Zapovednik (nature reserve)

See also

Notes

  1. ^ The word was originally pronounced without the /k/ sound, but the pronunciation with the k sound is nowadays very common. The "c" was added to the spelling for etymological reasons[1][2] and then began to be pronounced, but (as with other spelling pronunciations) at first only by less educated people.

References

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  2. ^ Harper, Douglas. "Antarctic". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 16 November 2011.
  3. ^ Christopher Krembs and Jody Deming. "Organisms that thrive in Arctic sea ice." National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 18 November 2006.
  4. ^ Liddell, Henry George and Scott, Robert. "Arktikos." A Greek-English Lexicon. Perseus Digital Library.
  5. ^ Liddell, Henry George and Scott, Robert. "Arktos." A Greek-English Lexicon. Perseus Digital Library.
  6. ^ "The Great Bear Constellation Ursa Major". Archived from the original on 30 November 2010. Retrieved 10 November 2010.
  7. ^ "arctic." Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. Retrieved 2 May 2009.
  8. ^ Addison, Kenneth (2002). Fundamentals of the physical environment. Routledge. p. 482. ISBN 978-0-415-23293-7.
  9. ^ Hansen, Jim (19 October 2006). "The Planet in Peril – Part I". Yale Center for the Study of Globalization. Archived from the original on 15 October 2009.
  10. ^ Serreze, Mc; Holland, Mm; Stroeve, J (Mar 2007). "Perspectives on the Arctic's shrinking sea-ice cover". Science. 315 (5818): 1533–36. Bibcode:2007Sci...315.1533S. doi:10.1126/science.1139426. PMID 17363664.
  11. ^ "A paleontologists Alaskan adventure". New Scientist. 9 June 2012.
  12. ^ Hoffecker, John F. (2005). A prehistory of the north: human settlement of the higher latitudes. Rutgers University Press. p. 130. ISBN 978-0-8135-3469-5.
  13. ^ Gibbon, pp. 28–31
  14. ^ Gibbon, pp. 216–217
  15. ^ McGhee, Robert (2005). The last imaginary place: a human history of the Arctic world (Digitized 7 October 2008 ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-19-518368-9.
  16. ^ Gibbon, p. 218
  17. ^ "First Nations Culture Areas Index". the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
  18. ^ "Arctic Peoples". British Museum.
  19. ^ a b c Buixadé Farré, Albert; Stephenson, Scott R.; Chen, Linling; Czub, Michael; Dai, Ying; Demchev, Denis; Efimov, Yaroslav; Graczyk, Piotr; Grythe, Henrik; Keil, Kathrin; Kivekäs, Niku; Kumar, Naresh; Liu, Nengye; Matelenok, Igor; Myksvoll, Mari; O'Leary, Derek; Olsen, Julia; Pavithran, A.P., Sachin; Petersen, Edward; Raspotnik, Andreas; Ryzhov, Ivan; Solski, Jan; Suo, Lingling; Troein, Caroline; Valeeva, Vilena; van Rijckevorsel, Jaap; Wighting, Jonathan (16 October 2014). "Commercial Arctic shipping through the Northeast Passage: Routes, resources, governance, technology, and infrastructure" (PDF). Polar Geography. 37 (4): 298. doi:10.1080/1088937X.2014.965769. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 December 2015.
  20. ^ Berkman, Paul (23 June 2014). "Stability and Peace in the Arctic Ocean through Science Diplomacy". Science & Diplomacy. 3 (2).
  21. ^ "United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Annex 2, Article 4)". Archived from the original on 16 July 2007. Retrieved 26 July 2007.
  22. ^ a b c d "Chronological lists of ratifications of, accessions and successions to the Convention and the related Agreements". United Nations Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea. 22 April 2009. Archived from the original on 14 April 2009. Retrieved 30 April 2009.
  23. ^ Yenikeyeff, S. M. and Fenton Krysiek, Timothy (August 2007). The Battle for the Next Energy Frontier: The Russian Polar Expedition and the Future of Arctic Hydrocarbons. Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.
  24. ^ "Conference in Ilulissat, Greenland: Landmark political declaration on the future of the Arctic". Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark. 28 May 2008. Retrieved 30 April 2009.
  25. ^ "The Ilulissat Declaration" (PDF). Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark. 28 May 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 June 2008. Retrieved 6 June 2008.
  26. ^ Boswell, Randy (28 May 2008). "Conference could mark start of Arctic power struggle". canada.com. Archived from the original on 4 March 2009. Retrieved 6 June 2008.
  27. ^ "Dansker vil dokumentere territorialkrav i Arktis" (in Norwegian). NRK. 28 July 2012. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
  28. ^ "Russia claims the application for expansion of Danish borders in the Arctic shelf". 2017-01-23.
  29. ^ "North Pole drifting stations (1930s–1980s)". Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Retrieved 30 April 2009.
  30. ^ Stars launch campaign to save the Arctic. Greenpeace (21 June 2012).
  31. ^ Study links 2015 melting Greenland ice to faster Arctic warming 9 June 2016 University of Georgia
  32. ^ Tedesco, M.; Mote, T.; Fettweis, X.; Hanna, E.; Jeyaratnam, J.; Booth, J.F.; Datta, R.; Briggs, K. (2016). "Arctic cut-off high drives the poleward shift of a new Greenland melting record". Nature Communications. 7: 11723. Bibcode:2016NatCo...711723T. doi:10.1038/ncomms11723. PMC 4906163. PMID 27277547.
  33. ^ Impacts of a warming Arctic: Arctic Climate Impact Assessment. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. February 2005. doi:10.2277/0521617782 (inactive 4 January 2019). ISBN 978-0-521-61778-9. Archived from the original on 19 November 2006. Retrieved 20 November 2006.
  34. ^ Grinberg, Emanuella (17 December 2008). "Ice melting across globe at accelerating rate, NASA says." CNN.
  35. ^ Lenton, T.M.; Held, H.; Kriegler, E.; Hall, J.W.; Lucht, W.; Rahmstorf, S.; Schellnhuber, H.J. (2008). "Inaugural Article: Tipping elements in the Earth's climate system". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 105 (6): 1786–93. Bibcode:2008PNAS..105.1786L. doi:10.1073/pnas.0705414105. PMC 2538841. PMID 18258748.
  36. ^ "Abrupt Climate Change Focus Of U.S. National Laboratories". Science Daily. 23 September 2008.
  37. ^ Myers-Smith, Isla H.; Forbes, Bruce C.; Wilmking, Martin; Hallinger, Martin; Lantz, Trevor; Blok, Daan; Tape, Ken D.; Macias-Fauria, Marc; Sass-Klaassen, Ute (2011-01-01). "Shrub expansion in tundra ecosystems: dynamics, impacts and research priorities". Environmental Research Letters. 6 (4): 045509. Bibcode:2011ERL.....6d5509M. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/6/4/045509. ISSN 1748-9326.
  38. ^ Alatalo, Juha M.; Jägerbrand, Annika K.; Molau, Ulf (2015-11-01). "Testing reliability of short-term responses to predict longer-term responses of bryophytes and lichens to environmental change". Ecological Indicators. 58: 77–85. doi:10.1016/j.ecolind.2015.05.050.
  39. ^ "Will ice melt open fabled Northwest Passage?" Archived 9 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine CNN. 29 August 2002.
  40. ^ "Largest Cruise Ship Ever To Sail Northwest Passage Docks In NYC". 2016-09-16. Retrieved 2016-09-24.
  41. ^ Demos, Telis. "The great Arctic Circle oil rush." CNN. 8 August 2007.
  42. ^ Shaw, Rob. "New patrol ships will reassert northern sovereignty: PM". Victoria Times Colonist. 9 July 2007.
  43. ^ Halpin, Tony. "Russia stakes its claim on North Pole in underwater search for oil". The Times. 28 July 2007.
  44. ^ "Arctic melt stuns scientists". CBS News. 9 October 2007.
  45. ^ "Conference could mark start of Arctic power struggle". Canada.com. 28 May 2008. Archived from the original on 4 March 2009.
  46. ^ Stokmarknes in Vesterålen 1961–1990 average. Retro.met.no (28 January 2008). Retrieved 2011-10-18.

Bibliography

Further reading

External links

Maps
Media
Alex Turner

Alexander David Turner (born 6 January 1986) is an English musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer. He is best known as the frontman and principal songwriter of the rock band Arctic Monkeys, with whom he has released six albums. He has also recorded with his side project The Last Shadow Puppets and as a solo artist.

Turner was born and raised in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, the only child of two high school teachers. When he was 16, he and three friends formed Arctic Monkeys. Their debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not (2006), became the fastest-selling debut album in British history and was ranked at No. 30 on Rolling Stone's list of the greatest debut albums of all time. The band's subsequent studio albums, Favourite Worst Nightmare (2007), Humbug (2009), Suck It and See (2011), AM (2013) and Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino (2018), have experimented with desert rock, indie pop, R&B, and lounge music. Arctic Monkeys headlined Glastonbury Festival in both 2007 and 2013, and performed during the 2012 London Summer Olympics opening ceremony.

Turner and Miles Kane have released two orchestral pop albums – The Age Of The Understatement (2008) and Everything You've Come To Expect (2016) – as the co-frontmen of The Last Shadow Puppets. Turner provided an acoustic soundtrack for the feature film Submarine (2010). He co-wrote and co-produced Alexandra Savior's debut album, Belladonna of Sadness (2017).

Turner's lyricism, ranging from kitchen sink realism to surrealist wordplay, has been widely praised. Each of his eight studio albums have reached number one on the UK Album Chart. He has won seven Brit Awards, an Ivor Novello Award, and has been nominated for the Mercury Prize five times, winning once.

Arctic Archipelago

The Arctic Archipelago, also known as the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, is a group of islands north of the Canadian mainland.

Situated in the northern extremity of North America and covering about 1,424,500 km2 (550,000 sq mi), this group of 36,563 islands in the Arctic Sea comprises much of the territory of Northern Canada – most of Nunavut and part of the Northwest Territories. The Canadian Arctic Archipelago is showing some effects of global warming, with some computer estimates determining that melting there will contribute 3.5 cm (1.4 in) to the rise in sea levels by 2100.

Arctic Circle

The Arctic Circle is the most northerly of the five major circles of latitude as shown on maps of Earth. It marks the northernmost point at which the centre of the noon sun is just visible on the December solstice and the southernmost point at which the centre of the midnight sun is just visible on the June solstice. The region north of this circle is known as the Arctic, and the zone just to the south is called the Northern Temperate Zone.

As seen from the Arctic, the Sun is above the horizon for 24 continuous hours at least once per year (and therefore visible at midnight) and below the horizon for 24 continuous hours at least once per year (and therefore not visible at noon). This is also true in the Antarctic region, south of the equivalent Antarctic Circle.

The position of the Arctic Circle is not fixed; as of 17 February 2019, it runs 66°33′47.5″ north of the Equator. Its latitude depends on the Earth's axial tilt, which fluctuates within a margin of more than 2° over a 41,000-year period, due to tidal forces resulting from the orbit of the Moon. Consequently, the Arctic Circle is currently drifting northwards at a speed of about 15 metres (49 feet) per year.

Arctic Monkeys

Arctic Monkeys are an English rock band formed in 2002 in High Green, a suburb of Sheffield. The band consists of Alex Turner (lead vocals, guitar, piano), Matt Helders (drums, vocals), Jamie Cook (guitar, keyboards) and Nick O'Malley (bass guitar, backing vocals). Former band member Andy Nicholson (bass guitar, backing vocals) left the band in 2006 shortly after their debut album was released.

They have released six studio albums: Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not (2006), Favourite Worst Nightmare (2007), Humbug (2009), Suck It and See (2011), AM (2013), and Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino (2018), as well as one live album, At the Apollo (2008). Their debut album is the fastest-selling debut album by a band in UK chart history, and in 2013, Rolling Stone ranked it the 30th-greatest debut album.The band has won seven Brit Awards – winning both Best British Group and Best British Album three times, and have been nominated for three Grammy Awards. They also won the Mercury Prize in 2006 for their debut album, in addition to receiving nominations in 2007, 2013 and 2018. The band have headlined at the Glastonbury Festival twice, in 2007 and again in 2013.

Arctic Monkeys were heralded as one of the first bands to come to public attention via the Internet, with commentators suggesting they represented the possibility of a change in the way in which new bands are promoted and marketed.

Arctic Ocean

The Arctic Ocean is the smallest and shallowest of the world's five major oceans. The International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) recognizes it as an ocean, although some oceanographers call it the Arctic Mediterranean Sea or simply the Arctic Sea, classifying it a mediterranean sea or an estuary of the Atlantic Ocean. It is also seen as the northernmost part of the all-encompassing World Ocean.

Located mostly in the Arctic north polar region in the middle of the Northern Hemisphere, the Arctic Ocean is almost completely surrounded by Eurasia and North America. It is partly covered by sea ice throughout the year and almost completely in winter. The Arctic Ocean's surface temperature and salinity vary seasonally as the ice cover melts and freezes; its salinity is the lowest on average of the five major oceans, due to low evaporation, heavy fresh water inflow from rivers and streams, and limited connection and outflow to surrounding oceanic waters with higher salinities. The summer shrinking of the ice has been quoted at 50%. The US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) uses satellite data to provide a daily record of Arctic sea ice cover and the rate of melting compared to an average period and specific past years.

Arctic fox

The Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus), are also known as the white fox, polar fox, or snow fox, that is a small fox native to the Arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere and common throughout the Arctic tundra biome. It is well adapted to living in cold environments, and is best known for its thick, warm fur that is also used as camouflage. On average, Arctic foxes only live 3–4 years in the wild. Its body length ranges from 46 to 68 cm (18 to 27 in), with a generally rounded body shape to minimize the escape of body heat.

The Arctic fox preys on many small creatures such as lemmings, voles, ringed seal pups, fish, waterfowl, and seabirds. It also eats carrion, berries, seaweed, and insects and other small invertebrates. Arctic foxes form monogamous pairs during the breeding season and they stay together to raise their young in complex underground dens. Occasionally, other family members may assist in raising their young. Natural predators of the Arctic fox are golden eagles, polar bears, wolverines, red foxes, wolves, and grizzly bears.

Greenland

Greenland (Greenlandic: Kalaallit Nunaat, pronounced [kalaːɬit nunaːt]; Danish: Grønland, pronounced [ˈɡʁɶnˌlanˀ]) is an autonomous constituent country of the Kingdom of Denmark between the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe (specifically Norway and Denmark, the colonial powers, as well as the nearby island of Iceland) for more than a millennium. The majority of its residents are Inuit, whose ancestors began migrating from the Canadian mainland in the 13th century, gradually settling across the island.

Greenland is the world's largest island. Australia and Antarctica (both larger) are generally considered to be continental landmasses rather than islands. Three-quarters of Greenland is covered by the only permanent ice sheet outside Antarctica. With a population of about 56,480 (2013), it is the least densely populated territory in the world. About a third of the population live in Nuuk, the capital and largest city. The Arctic Umiaq Line ferry acts as a lifeline for western Greenland, connecting the various cities and settlements.

Greenland has been inhabited at intervals over at least the last 4,500 years by Arctic peoples whose forebears migrated there from what is now Canada. Norsemen settled the uninhabited southern part of Greenland beginning in the 10th century, having previously settled Iceland to escape persecution from the King of Norway and his central government. These Norsemen would later set sail from Greenland and Iceland, with Leif Erikson becoming the first known European to reach North America nearly 500 years before Columbus reached the Caribbean islands. Inuit peoples arrived in the 13th century. Though under continuous influence of Norway and Norwegians, Greenland was not formally under the Norwegian crown until 1262. The Norse colonies disappeared in the late 15th century when Norway was hit by the Black Death and entered a severe decline. Soon after their demise, beginning in 1499, the Portuguese briefly explored and claimed the island, naming it Terra do Lavrador (later applied to Labrador in Canada).In the early 18th century, Danish explorers reached Greenland again. To strengthen trading and power, Denmark–Norway affirmed sovereignty over the island. Because of Norway's weak status, it lost sovereignty over Greenland in 1814 when the union was dissolved. Greenland became Danish in 1814, and was fully integrated in the Danish state in 1953 under the Constitution of Denmark.

In 1973, Greenland joined the European Economic Community with Denmark. However, in a referendum in 1982, a majority of the population voted for Greenland to withdraw from the EEC, which was effected in 1985. Greenland contains the world's largest and most northerly national park, Northeast Greenland National Park (Kalaallit Nunaanni nuna eqqissisimatitaq). Established in 1974, and expanded to its present size in 1988, it protects 972,001 square kilometres (375,292 sq mi) of the interior and northeastern coast of Greenland and is bigger than all but twenty-nine countries in the world. Greenland is divided into five municipalities – Sermersooq, Kujalleq, Qeqertalik, Qeqqata, and Avannaata. Greenland does not have an independent seat at the United Nations.In 1979, Denmark granted home rule to Greenland, and in 2008, Greenlanders voted in favor of the Self-Government Act, which transferred more power from the Danish government to the local Greenlandic government. Under the new structure, in effect since 21 June 2009, Greenland can gradually assume responsibility for policing, judicial system, company law, accounting, and auditing; mineral resource activities; aviation; law of legal capacity, family law and succession law; aliens and border controls; the working environment; and financial regulation and supervision, while the Danish government retains control of foreign affairs and defence. It also retains control of monetary policy, providing an initial annual subsidy of DKK 3.4 billion, which is planned to diminish gradually over time. Greenland expects to grow its economy based on increased income from the extraction of natural resources. The capital, Nuuk, held the 2016 Arctic Winter Games. At 70%, Greenland has one of the highest shares of renewable energy in the world, mostly coming from hydropower.

Inuit

The Inuit (; syllabics: ᐃᓄᐃᑦ, "the people", singular: Inuk) are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic regions of Greenland, Canada, and Alaska. The Inuit languages are part of the Eskimo-Aleut family. Inuit Sign Language is a critically endangered language isolate used in Nunavut.In the United States and Canada, the term "Eskimo" was commonly used by ethnic Europeans to describe the Inuit and Siberia's and Alaska's Yupik and Iñupiat peoples. However, "Inuit" is not accepted as a term for the Yupik, and "Eskimo" is the only term that applies to Yupik, Iñupiat and Inuit. Since the late 20th century, indigenous peoples in Canada and Greenlandic Inuit consider "Eskimo" to be a pejorative term, and they more frequently identify as "Inuit" for an autonym. In Canada, sections 25 and 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982 classified the Inuit as a distinctive group of Aboriginal Canadians who are not included under either the First Nations or the Métis.The Inuit live throughout most of Northern Canada in the territory of Nunavut, Nunavik in the northern third of Quebec, Nunatsiavut and NunatuKavut in Labrador, and in various parts of the Northwest Territories, particularly around the Arctic Ocean. These areas are known in the Inuktitut language as the "Inuit Nunangat".In the United States, the Iñupiat live primarily on the Alaska North Slope and on Little Diomede Island. The Greenlandic Inuit are descendants of ancient indigenous migrations from Canada, as these people migrated to the east through the continent. They are citizens of Denmark, although not of the European Union.

Narwhal

The narwhal (Monodon monoceros), or narwhale, is a medium-sized toothed whale that possesses a large "tusk" from a protruding canine tooth. It lives year-round in the Arctic waters around Greenland, Canada, and Russia. It is one of two living species of whale in the Monodontidae family, along with the beluga whale. The narwhal males are distinguished by a long, straight, helical tusk, which is an elongated upper left canine. The narwhal was one of many species described by Carl Linnaeus in his publication Systema Naturae in 1758.

Like the beluga, narwhals are medium-sized whales. For both sexes, excluding the male's tusk, the total body size can range from 3.95 to 5.5 m (13 to 18 ft); the males are slightly larger than the females. The average weight of an adult narwhal is 800 to 1,600 kg (1,760 to 3,530 lb). At around 11 to 13 years old, the males become sexually mature; females become sexually mature at about 5 to 8 years old. Narwhals do not have a dorsal fin, and their neck vertebrae are jointed like those of most other mammals, not fused as in dolphins and most whales.

Found primarily in Canadian Arctic and Greenlandic and Russian waters, the narwhal is a uniquely specialized Arctic predator. In winter, it feeds on benthic prey, mostly flatfish, under dense pack ice. During the summer, narwhals eat mostly Arctic cod and Greenland halibut, with other fish such as polar cod making up the remainder of their diet. Each year, they migrate from bays into the ocean as summer comes. In the winter, the male narwhals occasionally dive up to 1,500 m (4,920 ft) in depth, with dives lasting up to 25 minutes. Narwhals, like most toothed whales, communicate with "clicks", "whistles", and "knocks".

Narwhals can live up to 50 years. They are often killed by suffocation when the sea ice freezes over. Other causes of death, specifically among young whales, are starvation and predation by orcas. As previous estimates of the world narwhal population were below 50,000, narwhals are categorized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as Nearly Threatened. More recent estimates list higher populations (upwards of 170,000), thus lowering the status to Least Concern. Narwhals have been harvested for hundreds of years by Inuit people in northern Canada and Greenland for meat and ivory, and a regulated subsistence hunt continues.

North Magnetic Pole

The North Magnetic Pole is the wandering point on the surface of Earth's Northern Hemisphere at which the planet's magnetic field points vertically downwards (in other words, if a magnetic compass needle is allowed to rotate about a horizontal axis, it will point straight down). There is only one location where this occurs, near (but distinct from) the Geographic North Pole and the Geomagnetic North Pole.

The North Magnetic Pole moves over time due to magnetic changes in the Earth's core. In 2001, it was determined by the Geological Survey of Canada to lie west of Ellesmere Island in northern Canada at 81.3°N 110.8°W / 81.3; -110.8 (Magnetic North Pole 2001). It was situated at 83.1°N 117.8°W / 83.1; -117.8 (Magnetic North Pole 2005 est) in 2005. In 2009, while still situated within the Canadian Arctic territorial claim at 84.9°N 131.0°W / 84.9; -131.0 (Magnetic North Pole 2009), it was moving toward Russia at between 55 and 60 kilometres (34 and 37 mi) per year. As of 2017, the pole is projected to have moved beyond the Canadian Arctic territorial claim to 86.5°N 172.6°W / 86.5; -172.6 (Magnetic North Pole 2017 est).Its southern hemisphere counterpart is the South Magnetic Pole. Since the Earth's magnetic field is not exactly symmetrical, the North and South Magnetic Poles are not antipodal, meaning that a straight line drawn from one to the other does not pass through the geometric centre of the Earth.

The Earth's North and South Magnetic Poles are also known as Magnetic Dip Poles, with reference to the vertical "dip" of the magnetic field lines at those points.

North Pole

The North Pole, also known as the Geographic North Pole or Terrestrial North Pole, is (subject to the caveats explained below) defined as the point in the Northern Hemisphere where the Earth's axis of rotation meets its surface.

The North Pole is the northernmost point on the Earth, lying diametrically opposite the South Pole. It defines geodetic latitude 90° North, as well as the direction of true north. At the North Pole all directions point south; all lines of longitude converge there, so its longitude can be defined as any degree value. Along tight latitude circles, counterclockwise is east and clockwise is west. The North Pole is at the center of the Northern Hemisphere.

While the South Pole lies on a continental land mass, the North Pole is located in the middle of the Arctic Ocean amid waters that are almost permanently covered with constantly shifting sea ice. This makes it impractical to construct a permanent station at the North Pole (unlike the South Pole). However, the Soviet Union, and later Russia, constructed a number of manned drifting stations on a generally annual basis since 1937, some of which have passed over or very close to the Pole. Since 2002, the Russians have also annually established a base, Barneo, close to the Pole. This operates for a few weeks during early spring. Studies in the 2000s predicted that the North Pole may become seasonally ice-free because of Arctic ice shrinkage, with timescales varying from 2016 to the late 21st century or later.

The sea depth at the North Pole has been measured at 4,261 m (13,980 ft) by the Russian Mir submersible in 2007 and at 4,087 m (13,410 ft) by USS Nautilus in 1958. The nearest land is usually said to be Kaffeklubben Island, off the northern coast of Greenland about 700 km (430 mi) away, though some perhaps semi-permanent gravel banks lie slightly closer. The nearest permanently inhabited place is Alert in the Qikiqtaaluk Region, Nunavut, Canada, which is located 817 km (508 mi) from the Pole.

Northern Canada

Northern Canada, colloquially the North, is the vast northernmost region of Canada variously defined by geography and politics. Politically, the term refers to three territories of Canada: Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. Similarly, the Far North (when contrasted to the North) may refer to the Canadian Arctic: the portion of Canada north of the Arctic Circle and lies east of Alaska and west of Greenland. This area covers about 39 percent of Canada's total land area, but has less than 1 percent of Canada's population.

These reckonings somewhat depend on the arbitrary concept of nordicity, a measure of so-called "northernness" that other Arctic territories share. Canada is the northernmost country in the Americas (excluding the neighbouring Danish Arctic territory of Greenland which extends slightly further north) and roughly 80% of its 35 million inhabitants are concentrated along its southern border with the United States.

Northwest Passage

The Northwest Passage (NWP) is, from the European and northern Atlantic point of view, the sea route to the Pacific Ocean through the Arctic Ocean, along the northern coast of North America via waterways through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. The eastern route along the Arctic coasts of Norway and Siberia is accordingly called the Northeast Passage (NEP).

The various islands of the archipelago are separated from one another and from the Canadian mainland by a series of Arctic waterways collectively known as the Northwest Passages or Northwestern Passages.For centuries, European explorers sought a navigable passage as a possible trade route to Asia. An ice-bound northern route was discovered in 1850 by the Irish explorer Robert McClure; it was through a more southerly opening in an area explored by the Scotsman John Rae in 1854 that Norwegian Roald Amundsen made the first complete passage in 1903–1906. Until 2009, the Arctic pack ice prevented regular marine shipping throughout most of the year. Arctic sea ice decline has rendered the waterways more navigable for ice navigation.The contested sovereignty claims over the waters may complicate future shipping through the region: the Canadian government maintains that the Northwestern Passages are part of Canadian Internal Waters, but the United States and various European countries claim that they are an international strait and transit passage, allowing free and unencumbered passage. If, as has been claimed, parts of the eastern end of the Passage are barely 15 metres (49 ft) deep, the route's viability as a Euro-Asian shipping route is reduced. A Chinese shipping line is planning regular voyages of cargo ships using the passage to the eastern United States and Europe, after a successful passage by Nordic Orion of 73,500 tonnes deadweight tonnage in September 2013. Fully loaded, Nordic Orion sat too deep in the water to sail through the Panama Canal.

Nunavut

Nunavut ( (listen); French: [nynavy(t)]; Inuktitut syllabics ᓄᓇᕗᑦ [ˈnunavut]) is the newest, largest, and most northerly territory of Canada. It was separated officially from the Northwest Territories on April 1, 1999, via the Nunavut Act and the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act, though the boundaries had been contemplatively drawn in 1993. The creation of Nunavut resulted in the first major change to Canada's political map since the incorporation of the province of Newfoundland in 1949.

Nunavut comprises a major portion of Northern Canada, and most of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Its vast territory makes it the fifth-largest country subdivision in the world, as well as North America's second-largest (after Greenland). The capital Iqaluit (formerly "Frobisher Bay"), on Baffin Island in the east, was chosen by the 1995 capital plebiscite. Other major communities include the regional centres of Rankin Inlet and Cambridge Bay.

Nunavut also includes Ellesmere Island to the far north, as well as the eastern and southern portions of Victoria Island in the west and Akimiski Island in James Bay far to the southeast of the rest of the territory. It is Canada's only geo-political region that is not connected to the rest of North America by highway.Nunavut is the largest in area and the second-least populous of Canada's provinces and territories. One of the world's most remote, sparsely settled regions, it has a population of 35,944, mostly Inuit, spread over an area of just over 1,750,000 km2 (680,000 sq mi), or slightly smaller than Mexico. Nunavut is also home to the world's northernmost permanently inhabited place, Alert. Eureka, a weather station also on Ellesmere Island, has the lowest average annual temperature of any Canadian weather station.

Polar bear

The polar bear (Ursus maritimus) is a hypercarnivorous bear whose native range lies largely within the Arctic Circle, encompassing the Arctic Ocean, its surrounding seas and surrounding land masses. It is a large bear, approximately the same size as the omnivorous Kodiak bear (Ursus arctos middendorffi). A boar (adult male) weighs around 350–700 kg (772–1,543 lb), while a sow (adult female) is about half that size. Although it is the sister species of the brown bear, it has evolved to occupy a narrower ecological niche, with many body characteristics adapted for cold temperatures, for moving across snow, ice and open water, and for hunting seals, which make up most of its diet. Although most polar bears are born on land, they spend most of their time on the sea ice. Their scientific name means "maritime bear" and derives from this fact. Polar bears hunt their preferred food of seals from the edge of sea ice, often living off fat reserves when no sea ice is present. Because of their dependence on the sea ice, polar bears are classified as marine mammals.Because of expected habitat loss caused by climate change, the polar bear is classified as a vulnerable species. For decades, large-scale hunting raised international concern for the future of the species, but populations rebounded after controls and quotas began to take effect. For thousands of years, the polar bear has been a key figure in the material, spiritual, and cultural life of circumpolar peoples, and polar bears remain important in their cultures. Historically, the polar bear has also been known as the white bear.

Polar vortex

A polar vortex is an upper-level low-pressure area lying near one of the Earth's poles. There are two polar vortices in the Earth's atmosphere, overlying the North and South Poles. Each polar vortex is a persistent, large-scale, low-pressure zone less than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) in diameter, that rotates counter-clockwise at the North Pole (called a cyclone) and clockwise at the South Pole, i.e., both polar vortices rotate eastward around the poles. As with other cyclones, their rotation is driven by the Coriolis effect. The bases of the two polar vortices are located in the middle and upper troposphere and extend into the stratosphere. Beneath that lies a large mass of cold, dense Arctic air.

The interface between the cold dry air mass of the pole and the warm moist air mass farther south defines the location of the polar front. The polar front is centered, roughly at 60° latitude. A polar vortex strengthens in the winter and weakens in the summer due to its dependence on the temperature difference between the equator and the poles.The vortices weaken and strengthen from year to year. When the vortex of the Arctic is strong, it is well defined, there is a single vortex, and the Arctic air is well contained; when weaker, which it generally is, it will break into two or more vortices; when very weak, the flow of Arctic air becomes more disorganized, and masses of cold Arctic air can push equatorward, bringing with them a rapid and sharp temperature drop. When the polar vortex is strong, there is a single vortex with a jet stream that is "well constrained" near the polar front. When the northern vortex weakens, it separates into two or more vortices, the strongest of which are near Baffin Island, Canada, and the other over northeast Siberia.The Antarctic vortex of the Southern Hemisphere is a single low-pressure zone that is found near the edge of the Ross ice shelf, near 160 west longitude. When the polar vortex is strong, the mid-latitude Westerlies (winds at the surface level between 30° and 60° latitude from the west) increase in strength and are persistent. When the polar vortex is weak, high-pressure zones of the mid-latitudes may push poleward, moving the polar vortex, jet stream, and polar front equatorward. The jet stream is seen to "buckle" and deviate south. This rapidly brings cold dry air into contact with the warm, moist air of the mid-latitudes, resulting in a rapid and dramatic change of weather known as a "cold snap".Ozone depletion occurs within the polar vortices – particularly over the Southern Hemisphere – reaching a maximum depletion in the spring.

Siberian Husky

The Siberian Husky (Russian: Сибирский хаски, lit: Sibirskiy Haski) is a medium size working dog breed that originated in Northeast Asia. The breed belongs to the Spitz genetic family. With proper training, they make great home pets and sled dogs. It is recognizable by its thickly furred double coat, erect triangular ears, and distinctive markings.

The original Siberian Huskies were bred by the Chukchi people — whose hunter-gatherer culture relied on their help. It is an active, energetic, resilient breed, whose ancestors lived in the extremely cold and harsh environment of the Siberian Arctic. William Goosak, a Russian fur trader, introduced them to Nome, Alaska during the Nome Gold Rush, initially as sled dogs. The people of Nome referred to Siberian Huskies as "Siberian Rats" due to their size of 40–50 lb (18–23 kg), versus the Malamutes size of 75–85 lb (34–39 kg).

Svalbard

Svalbard (; Urban East Norwegian: [²sʋɑːlbɑɾ]; prior to 1925 known by its Dutch name 'Spitsbergen') is a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. Situated north of mainland Europe, it is about midway between continental Norway and the North Pole. The islands of the group range from 74° to 81° north latitude, and from 10° to 35° east longitude. The largest island is Spitsbergen, followed by Nordaustlandet and Edgeøya. Administratively, the archipelago is not part of any Norwegian county, but forms an unincorporated area administered by a governor appointed by the Norwegian government. Since 2002, Svalbard's main settlement, Longyearbyen, has had an elected local government, somewhat similar to mainland municipalities. Other settlements include the Russian mining community of Barentsburg, the research station of Ny-Ålesund, and the mining outpost of Sveagruva. Ny-Ålesund is the northernmost settlement in the world with a permanent civilian population. Other settlements are farther north, but are populated only by rotating groups of researchers.

The islands were first taken into use as a whaling base in the 17th and 18th centuries, after which they were abandoned. Coal mining started at the beginning of the 20th century, and several permanent communities were established. The Svalbard Treaty of 1920 recognizes Norwegian sovereignty, and the 1925 Svalbard Act made Svalbard a full part of the Kingdom of Norway. They also established Svalbard as a free economic zone and a demilitarized zone. The Norwegian Store Norske and the Russian Arktikugol remain the only mining companies in place. Research and tourism have become important supplementary industries, with the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS) and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault playing critical roles. No roads connect the settlements; instead snowmobiles, aircraft and boats serve inter-community transport. Svalbard Airport, Longyear serves as the main gateway.

The archipelago features an Arctic climate, although with significantly higher temperatures than other areas at the same latitude. The flora take advantage of the long period of midnight sun to compensate for the polar night. Svalbard is a breeding ground for many seabirds, and also features polar bears, reindeer, the Arctic fox, and certain marine mammals. Seven national parks and twenty-three nature reserves cover two-thirds of the archipelago, protecting the largely untouched, yet fragile, natural environment. Approximately 60% of the archipelago is covered with glaciers, and the islands feature many mountains and fjords.

Svalbard and Jan Mayen are collectively assigned the ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 country code "SJ". Both areas are administered by Norway, though they are separated by a distance of over 950 kilometres (510 nautical miles) and have very different administrative structures.

Tundra

In physical geography, tundra () is a type of biome where the tree growth is hindered by low temperatures and short growing seasons. The term tundra comes through Russian тундра (tûndra) from the Kildin Sami word тӯндар (tūndâr) meaning "uplands", "treeless mountain tract". Tundra vegetation is composed of dwarf shrubs, sedges and grasses, mosses, and lichens. Scattered trees grow in some tundra regions. The ecotone (or ecological boundary region) between the tundra and the forest is known as the tree line or timberline.

There are three regions and associated types of tundra: Arctic tundra, alpine tundra, and Antarctic tundra.

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