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.[1][2] 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 14 February 2019, it runs 66°33′47.5″ north of the Equator.[3] 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.[4] Consequently, the Arctic Circle is currently drifting northwards at a speed of about 15 metres (49 feet) per year.

Arctic circle
Map of the Arctic, with the Arctic Circle in blue and the July 10 °C mean isotherm in red


The word arctic comes from the Greek word ἀρκτικός (arktikos: "near the Bear, northern")[5] and that from the word ἄρκτος (arktos: "bear").[6]

Midnight sun and polar night

Axial tilt vs tropical and polar circles
Relationship of Earth's axial tilt (ε) to the tropical and polar circles

The Arctic Circle is the southernmost latitude in the Northern Hemisphere at which the centre of the sun can remain continuously above or below the horizon for twenty-four hours; as a result, at least once each year at any location within the Arctic Circle the sun is visible at local midnight, and at least once the centre is not visible at local noon.[7]

Directly on the Arctic Circle these events occur, in principle, exactly once per year: at the June and December solstices, respectively. However, because of atmospheric refraction and mirages, and also because the sun appears as a disk and not a point, part of the midnight sun may be seen on the night of the northern summer solstice up to about 50 minutes (′) (90 km (56 mi)) south of the Arctic Circle; similarly, on the day of the northern winter solstice, part of the sun may be seen up to about 50′ north of the Arctic Circle. That is true at sea level; those limits increase with elevation above sea level, although in mountainous regions there is often no direct view of the true horizon.

Human habitation

World map with arctic circle
Cylindrical projection showing the Arctic Circle in red

Only four million people live north of the Arctic Circle due to the severe climate; nonetheless, some areas have been settled for thousands of years by indigenous peoples, who today make up 10% of the region's population.[8] Tens of thousands of years ago, waves of people migrated from eastern Siberia across the Bering Strait into North America to settle.

The largest communities north of the Arctic Circle are situated in Russia, Norway and Sweden: Murmansk (population 295,374), Norilsk (178,018), Tromsø (75,638), Vorkuta (58,133) and Kiruna (16,936). Rovaniemi (62,667) in Finland is the largest settlement in the immediate vicinity of the Arctic Circle, lying 6 kilometres (4 miles) south of the line.

In contrast, the largest North American community north of the Arctic Circle, Sisimiut (Greenland), has approximately 5,000 inhabitants. Of the Canadian and American Arctic communities, Utqiagvik, Alaska is the largest settlement with about 4,000 inhabitants.


The Arctic Circle is roughly 16,000 kilometres (9,900 mi).[9] The area north of the Circle is about 20,000,000 km2 (7,700,000 sq mi) and covers roughly 4% of Earth's surface.[10]

The Arctic Circle passes through the Arctic Ocean, the Scandinavian Peninsula, North Asia, Northern America and Greenland. The land within the Arctic Circle is divided among 8 countries: Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, the United States (Alaska), Canada (Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut), Denmark (Greenland) and Iceland (where it passes through the small offshore island of Grímsey).


The climate inside the Arctic Circle is generally cold, but the coastal areas of Norway have a generally mild climate as a result of the Gulf Stream, which makes the ports of northern Norway and northwest Russia ice-free all year long. In the interior, summers can be quite warm, while winters are extremely cold. For example, summer temperatures in Norilsk, Russia will sometimes reach as high as 30 °C (86 °F), while the winter temperatures frequently fall below −50 °C (−58 °F).

Sites along the Arctic Circle

Starting at the prime meridian and heading eastwards, the Arctic Circle passes through:

Arctic Circle sign
A sign along the Dalton Highway marking the location of the Arctic Circle in Alaska
66 33 arctic circle
Arctic Circle line in Rovaniemi, Finland
201006 norway polar-circle

A sign on the Vikingen island marking the Arctic Circle in Norway

The Arctic Circle on Grímsey in Iceland

Polarkreis inlandsbanan

Arctic Circle sign by the Inland Line railway, Sweden

Полярный круг, Россия

The Arctic Circle in the Republic of Karelia, Russia

Россия, ЯНАО, Полярный круг.

Arctic Circle sign by the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District, Russia

Круиз Якутск - Ленские столбы - Тикси - Якутск, 2017 (364)

A sign in Yakutia, Russia

See also


  1. ^ Burn, Chris. The Polar Night (PDF). The Aurora Research Institute. Retrieved 28 September 2015.
  2. ^ NB: This refers to the true geometric centre which actually appears higher in the sky because of refraction by the atmosphere.
  3. ^ "Obliquity of the Ecliptic (Eps Mean)". Retrieved 13 May 2014.
  4. ^ Berger, A. L. (1976). "Obliquity and Precession for the Last 5000000 Years". Astronomy and Astrophysics. 51: 127–135. Bibcode:1976A&A....51..127B.
  5. ^ Liddell, Henry; Scott, Robert. "Arktikos". A Greek–English Lexicon. Perseus Digital Library.
  6. ^ Liddell, Henry; Scott, Robert. "Arktos". A Greek–English Lexicon. Perseus Digital Library.
  7. ^ Burn, Chris. The Polar Night (PDF). The Aurora Research Institute. Retrieved 28 September 2015.
  8. ^ "Arctic Population".
  9. ^ Nuttall, Mark (2004). Encyclopedia of the Arctic Volumes 1, 2 and 3. Routledge. p. 115. ISBN 978-1579584368. Retrieved 26 July 2016.
  10. ^ Marsh, William M.; Kaufman, Martin M. (2012). Physical Geography: Great Systems and Global Environments. Cambridge University Press. p. 24. ISBN 978-0-521-76428-5.

External links

80th parallel south

The 80th parallel south is a circle of latitude that is 80 degrees south of the Earth's equatorial plane.

It passes through Antarctica and Antarctic ice shelves.

Arctic Circle Air

Arctic Circle Air was an American airline based in Fairbanks, Alaska, USA. It operated scheduled commuter services and charter flights to over 16 Alaskan communities. It was established and started operations in 1973. Its main base was Fairbanks International Airport.

Arctic Circle Restaurants

Arctic Circle Restaurants is a chain of burger and shake restaurants based in Midvale, Utah, United States. There were 87 restaurants as of April 2016, about a third are company owned and two-thirds by franchisees, in Utah, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming. About 50% of the restaurants are located in Utah. The restaurants purvey typical fast food fare such as burgers, sandwiches, shakes, salads, fries, and fish and chips.Famous for inventing regional condiment fry sauce, the company also claims to be the burger chain to invent and first to sell the kids' meal.

Arctic Circle once offered franchises in California, but no longer does.

Coast Guard Arctic Service Medal

The Coast Guard Arctic Service Medal was established on 20 May 1976 by Commandant of the Coast Guard Admiral Owen W. Siler. The medal is awarded to any member of the United States Coast Guard who performs twenty one days of consecutive duty afloat or ashore north of the Arctic Circle. Air crews flying in and out of areas north of the Arctic Circle may also be awarded the medal for 21 days of non-consecutive service. The medal depicts a polar bear under the North Star, while the reverse side carries the Coast Guard Shield.

Cumberland Peninsula

Cumberland Peninsula is a peninsula in the southeastern part of Baffin Island in Nunavut, Canada. It is located between 64°56' and 67°57' north latitude, and 61°56' to 68° west longitude. The Arctic Circle crosses the peninsula, with the Labrador Sea to the southeast, and the Davis Strait to the east, which lies between the peninsula and Greenland. The Cumberland Sound lies to the southwest, separating the Cumberland Peninsula from the Hall Peninsula, which is also part of Baffin Island.

The Cumberland Peninsula is part of the Arctic Tundra biome—the world's coldest and driest biome—as is the rest of Baffin Island. The terrain is mountainous, and Mt. Odin, near the Arctic Circle, rises 7,044 ft (2,147 m).

The peninsula is home to Pangnirtung, which lies on the southwest coast, and the Auyuittuq National Park.

European route E10

European route E 10 is the second shortest Class A road which is part of the International E-road network. It begins in Å, Norway and ends in Luleå, Sweden. The road is about 850 km (530 mi) in length. The Norwegian part of the road is also named Kong Olav Vs vei (King Olav V's road).

The road follows the route Å – Leknes – Svolvær – Gullesfjordbotn – Evenes – Bjerkvik – Kiruna – Töre – Luleå.

The entire road is paved and two-lane. It has a 90–100 km/h (56–62 mph) speed limit in Sweden, and is usually 7-8 meters wide, enough to make encounters between heavy vehicles trouble-free. In Norway the road is much more twisting than in Sweden, and around 6-7,5 m wide usually with a speed limit of 80 km/h (50 mph). New sections have been built 7.5 m (25 ft) wide the last 15 years, but there are several much narrower parts left. 6 m (20 ft) width makes encounters between heavy vehicles tight. The last 50 km near Å the road is mostly less than 6 m (20 ft) wide, often 5 m (16 ft). Buses and caravans should avoid driving here, but many of them do so anyway.

The name E 10 was given in 1992. Before 1985, E 10 was the name of the road Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam-Groningen. The road between Narvik and Kiruna was finished in 1984, before that, no road existed at all directly between the two cities; the only way to travel between them was by train (with passenger services only three times a day), or by a large detour through Finland. In 2007, the road near Lofoten was shortened by about 30 km, and the ferry-service was bypassed for E10, with the opening of Lofast, which is a new road between Fiskebøl and Gullesfjordbotn. At the end of 2007, the E 10 has 18 tunnels totalling 20.4 km (12.7 mi), all in Norway.

European route E105

is part of the International E-road network, which is a series of main roads in Europe. It is a North-South reference road, meaning it crosses Europe from north to south and other E-road numbers have been calculated based on these reference roads.

European route E6

European route E6 (Norwegian: Europavei 6, Swedish: Europaväg 6, or simply E6) is the main north-south road through Norway, and the west coast of Sweden. It is 3 088 km (1.919 mi) long and runs from the southern tip of Sweden at Trelleborg, into Norway and through almost all of the country north to the Arctic Circle and Nordkapp. The route ends in Kirkenes close to the Russian border.

European route E69

European route E69 is an E-road between Olderfjord and North Cape in northern Norway. The road is 129 km (80 mi) long. It contains five tunnels, totalling 15.5 km (9.6 mi). The longest, the North Cape Tunnel, is 6.9 km (4.3 mi) long and reaches 212 m (696 ft) below sea level.

The northernmost part of the road is during the winter months available only through convoy driving at fixed times.

E 69 is the northernmost road in the world with connections to a major international road network. Roads further north in locations including Svalbard and Greenland are isolated and short.

European route E8

The European route E 8 is a European route that goes from Tromsø, Norway to Turku, Finland. The length of the route is 1,410 kilometres (880 mi).

E 8: Tromsø – Nordkjosbotn – Skibotn – Kilpisjärvi – Kaaresuvanto – Muonio – Tornio – Keminmaa – Kemi – Oulu – Liminka – Raahe – Kalajoki – Kokkola – Vaasa – Pori – Rauma – TurkuThe road E8 was introduced in 1992 between Tromsø–Tornio. In the older E road system it was called E78 since 1962. The E8 was extended Tornio–Turku in year 2002. In the older E road system that was used before 1985 (in the Nordic countries 1992) the E8 went London–Harwich–Hoek van Holland–Hannover–Berlin–Warszawa–Brest.

Geographical zone

The five main latitude regions of the Earth's surface comprise geographical zones, divided by the major circles of latitude. The differences between them relate to climate. They are as follows:

The North frigid zone, between the Arctic Circle 66.5° N and the North Pole 90° N. Covers 4.12% of Earth's surface.

The North temperate zone, between the Tropic of Cancer 23.5° N and the Arctic Circle 66.5° N. Covers 25.99% of Earth's surface.

The Torrid zone, between the Tropic of Cancer 23.5° N and the Tropic of Capricorn 23.5° S. Covers 39.78% of Earth's surface.

The South temperate zone, between the Tropic of Capricorn 23.5° S and the Antarctic Circle 66.5° S. Covers 25.99% of Earth's surface.

The South frigid zone, from Antarctic Circle 66.5° S and the South Pole 90° S. Covers 4.12% of Earth's surface.

On the basis of latitudinal extent, the globe is divided into three broad heat zones.


Grímsey is a small Icelandic island, 40 kilometres (25 mi) off the north coast of the main island of Iceland, straddling the Arctic Circle. In January 2018 Grímsey had 61 inhabitants.

Until a vote in 2009 to amalgamate with Akureyri, it constituted the hreppur (municipality) of Grímseyjarhreppur. The only settlement is Sandvík.

Lovers of the Arctic Circle

Lovers of the Arctic Circle (Spanish: Los amantes del círculo polar), also known as The Lovers from the North Pole, is a 1998 Spanish drama film written and directed by Julio Médem and starring Najwa Nimri and Fele Martínez. It won two Goya Awards in 1999.

The film tells the story of Otto and Ana (whose names are palindromes), from their chance meeting outside school at the age of 8, until they meet again in their 20s in Lapland within the Arctic Circle, under the midnight sun. The themes developed in the film form an important part of Julio Medem's universe, and can be found in his other movies; these include love, death, destiny, nature, the circle of life and the coincidences in life. It received favorable critical reviews.[1]

Midnight sun

The midnight sun is a natural phenomenon that occurs in the summer months in places north of the Arctic Circle or south of the Antarctic Circle, when the Sun remains visible at the local midnight.


Norilsk (Russian: Нори́льск, IPA: [nɐˈrʲilʲsk]) is an industrial city in Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia, located above the Arctic Circle, east of the Yenisei River and south of the western Taymyr Peninsula. It has a permanent population of 175,000. With temporary inhabitants included, its population reaches 220,000.

It is the world's northernmost city with more than 100,000 inhabitants and the second-largest city (after Murmansk) inside the Arctic Circle. Norilsk and Yakutsk are the only large cities in the continuous permafrost zone.

North American Arctic

The North American Arctic comprises the northern portions of Alaska (USA), Northern Canada and Greenland. Major bodies of water include the Arctic Ocean, Hudson Bay, the Gulf of Alaska and North Atlantic Ocean. The western limit is the Seward Peninsula and the Bering Strait. The southern limit is the Arctic Circle latitude of 66° 33’N, which is the approximate limit of the midnight sun and the polar night.

The Arctic region is defined by environmental limits 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. The area has tundra and polar vegetation.

Polar circle

A polar circle is either the Arctic Circle or the Antarctic Circle. On Earth, the Arctic Circle is located at a latitude of 66°33′47.5″ N, and the Antarctic Circle is located at a latitude of 66°33′47.5″ S.Areas inside each polar circle and its associated pole (North Pole or South Pole), known geographically as the frigid zones, would theoretically experience at least one 24-hour period when the center of the sun is continuously above the horizon and at least one 24-hour period when the center of the sun is continuously below the horizon annually. However, due to atmospheric refraction and the Sun being an extended object rather than a point source, the continuous daylight area is somewhat extended while the continuous darkness area is somewhat reduced.

The latitude of the polar circles is 90 degrees minus the axial tilt of the Earth's axis of daily rotation relative to the ecliptic, the plane of the Earth's orbit. This tilt varies slightly, a phenomenon described as nutation. Therefore, the latitudes noted above are calculated by averaging values of tilt observed over many years. The axial tilt also exhibits long-term variations as described in the reference article (a difference of 1 second of arc in the tilt is equivalent to change of about 31 metres north or south in the positions of the polar circles on the Earth's surface).

R21 highway (Russia)

The R21 highway (in Cyrillic Р21), also known as the Kola Motorway, is a major highway in Russia, running from Saint Petersburg to Murmansk. The highway is part of the E105 European route. The highway is the main transportation route by road in the Republic of Karelia and the Murmansk Oblast. Its length is 1592 kilometers.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.