The subarctic is a region in the Northern Hemisphere immediately south of the true Arctic and covering much of Alaska, Canada, Iceland, the north of Scandinavia, Siberia, the Shetland Islands, and the Cairngorms. Generally, subarctic regions fall between 50°N and 70°N latitude, depending on local climates. Precipitation is low, and vegetation is characteristic of the taiga.

Biome map 06
Global map of the subarctic zone

Climate and soils

Larix laricina
Subarctic vegetation in Canada (Larix laricina)

Monthly temperatures are above 10 °C (50 °F) for at least one and at most three months of the year. Precipitation tends to be low due to the low moisture content of the cold air. Precipitation is typically greater in warmer months, with a summer maximum ranging from moderate in North America to extreme in the Russian Far East. Except in the wettest areas glaciers are not large because of the lack of winter precipitation; in the wettest areas, however, glaciers tend to be very abundant and Pleistocene glaciation covered even the lowest elevations. Soils of the subarctic are generally very acidic largely because of the influence of the vegetation both in the taiga and in peaty bogs, which tends to acidify the soil, as well as the extreme ease with which leaching of nutrients takes place even in the most heavily glaciated regions. The dominant soil orders are podsols and further north gelisols.

Subarctic regions are often characterized by taiga forest vegetation, though where winters are relatively mild, as in northern Norway, broadleaf forest may occur—though in some cases soils remain too saturated almost throughout the year to sustain any tree growth and the dominant vegetation is a peaty herbland dominated by grasses and sedges. Typically, there are only a few species of large terrestrial mammals in the subarctic regions, the most important being elk, moose (Alces alces), bears, reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), and wolves (Canis lupus). Agriculture is mainly limited to animal husbandry, though in some areas barley can be grown. Canada and Siberia are very rich in minerals, notably nickel, molybdenum, cobalt, lead, zinc and uranium, whilst the Grand Banks and Sea of Okhotsk are two of the richest fisheries in the world and provide support for many small towns.

Except for those areas adjacent to warm ocean currents, there is almost always continuous permafrost due to the very cold winters. This means that building in most subarctic regions is very difficult and expensive: cities are very few (Murmansk being the largest) and generally small, whilst roads are few. Subarctic rail transport only exists in Europe (lines to Narvik and Murmansk) and the NorilskDudinka line in northern Siberia. An important consequence is that transportation tends to be restricted to "bush" planes, helicopters and, in summer, riverboats.


In Fennoscandia and northwestern Russia, oceanic influences soften winter temperatures; the lack of permafrost allow agriculture and infrastructure. Lenvik, Norway, at 69°N.

Except for a few parts of Europe where the winters are relatively mild due to prevailing wind and ocean current patterns, subarctic regions were not explored until the 18th and 19th centuries. Even then, the difficulty of transportation ensured that few settlements (most of them created for mining) lasted long—the abandoned, once-thriving cities of the Yukon, Northwest Territories and increasingly Siberia illustrate this.

The Trans-Siberian Railway, which skirts the edge of the region, provided a major boost to Russian settlement in the subarctic, as did the intensive industrialization under Joseph Stalin that relied on the enormous mineral resources of the Central Siberian Plateau. Today, many towns in subarctic Russia are declining precipitously as mines close. In Canada, after the early minerals ran out, development stalled until hydroelectric development occurred in the 1950s and 1960s. Hydro-Quebec in particular has carried out many engineering works in regions of near-continuous permafrost, but these have never supported a significant population and have mainly served densely populated southern Quebec.

Tourism in recent years has become a major source of revenue for most countries of the subarctic due to the beautiful, generally glacial, landscapes so characteristic of the region. Most areas in the subarctic are among the most expensive places in the world to visit, due to both high costs of living and inaccessibility. Nonetheless, the great opportunities for outdoor recreation lure an ever-increasing number of travelers. At the same time, the older industries of the subarctic (fishing, mining, hydroelectric power) are being threatened by both environmental opposition and overfishing leading to depleted stocks of commercially important species.

See also

External links

  • "Subarctic climate" in: Ritter, Michael E. The Physical Environment: an Introduction to Physical Geography. 2006.
Alberta-British Columbia foothills forests

The Alberta-British Columbia foothills forests are a temperate coniferous forests ecoregion of Canada. This ecoregion borders Canada's taiga and contains a mix of subarctic forest and temperate forest species as a result. This makes the region an ecotone region, or a region that acts as a buffer between two other biomes.

Algonquian languages

The Algonquian languages ( or ;

also Algonkian) are a subfamily of Native American languages which includes most of the languages in the Algic language family. The name of the Algonquian language family is distinguished from the orthographically similar Algonquin dialect of the indigenous Ojibwe language (Chippewa), which is a senior member of the Algonquian language family. The term "Algonquin" has been suggested to derive from the Maliseet word elakómkwik (pronounced [ɛlæˈɡomoɡwik]), "they are our relatives/allies". A number of Algonquian languages, like many other Native American languages, are now extinct.

Speakers of Algonquian languages stretch from the east coast of North America to the Rocky Mountains. The proto-language from which all of the languages of the family descend, Proto-Algonquian, was spoken around 2,500 to 3,000 years ago. There is no scholarly consensus about where this language was spoken.

Betula papyrifera

Betula papyrifera (paper birch, also known as white birch and canoe birch) is a short-lived species of birch native to northern North America. Paper birch is named for the tree's thin white bark, which often peels in paper like layers from the trunk. Paper birch is often one of the first species to colonize a burned area within the northern latitudes, and is an important species for moose browsing. The wood is often used for pulpwood and firewood.

Betula pendula

Betula pendula, commonly known as silver birch, warty birch, European white birch, or East Asian white birch, is a species of tree in the family Betulaceae, native to Europe and parts of Asia, though in southern Europe it is only found at higher altitudes. Its range extends into Siberia, China and southwest Asia in the mountains of northern Turkey, the Caucasus and northern Iran. It has been introduced into North America, where it is known as the European white birch, and is considered invasive in some states in the United States and in parts of Canada. The tree can also be found in more temperate regions of Australia.

The silver birch is a medium-sized deciduous tree that owes its common name to the white peeling bark on the trunk. The twigs are slender and often pendulous and the leaves are roughly triangular with doubly serrate margins and turn yellow in autumn before they fall. The flowers are catkins and the light, winged seeds get widely scattered by the wind. The silver birch is a hardy tree, a pioneer species, and one of the first trees to appear on bare or fire-swept land. Many species of birds and animals are found in birch woodland, the tree supports a wide range of insects and the light shade it casts allows shrubby and other plants to grow beneath its canopy. It is planted decoratively in parks and gardens and is used for forest products such as joinery timber, firewood, tanning, racecourse jumps and brooms. Various parts of the tree are used in traditional medicine and the bark contains triterpenes which have been shown to have medicinal properties.

Climate of Alaska

The climate of Alaska is determined by average temperatures and precipitation received statewide over many years. The extratropical storm track runs along the Aleutian Island chain, across the Alaska Peninsula, and along the coastal area of the Gulf of Alaska which exposes these parts of the state to a large majority of the storms crossing the North Pacific. The climate in Juneau and the southeast panhandle is a mid-latitude oceanic climate (similar to Scotland, or Haida Gwaii), (Köppen Cfb) in the southern sections and a subarctic oceanic climate (Köppen Cfc) in the northern parts. The climate in Southcentral Alaska is a subarctic climate (Köppen Dfc) due to its short, cool summers. The climate of the interior of Alaska is best described as extreme and is the best example of a true subarctic climate, as the highest and lowest recorded temperatures in Alaska have both occurred in the interior. The climate in the extreme north of Alaska is an Arctic climate (Köppen ET) with long, cold winters, and cool summers where snow is possible year-round.


The Dené people () are an aboriginal group of First Nations who inhabit the northern boreal and Arctic regions of Canada. The Dené speak Northern Athabaskan languages. Dené is the common Athabaskan word for "people" (Sapir 1915, p. 558). The term "Dené" has two usages. More commonly, it is used narrowly to refer to the Athabaskan speakers of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut in Canada, especially including the Chipewyan (Denesuline), Tlicho (Dogrib), Yellowknives (T'atsaot'ine), Slavey (Deh Gah Got'ine or Deh Cho), and Sahtu (the Eastern group in Jeff Leer's classification; part of the Northwestern Canada group in Keren Rice's classification). But it is sometimes also used to refer to all Northern Athabaskan speakers, who are spread in a wide range all across Alaska and northern Canada. Note that Dené never includes the Pacific Coast Athabaskan or Southern Athabaskan speakers in the continental U.S., despite the fact that the term is used to denote the Athabaskan languages as a whole (the Na-Dene language family). The Southern Athabaskan speakers do, however, refer to themselves with similar words: Diné (Navajo) and Indé (Apache).

Alexander Mackenzie described aspects of a number of northern Dené cultures in the late eighteenth century in his journal of his voyage down the Mackenzie River.

Empetrum nigrum

Empetrum nigrum, crowberry, black crowberry, or, in western Alaska, blackberry, is a flowering plant species in the heather family Ericaceae with a near circumboreal distribution in the northern hemisphere. It is also native in the Falkland Islands. It is usually dioecious, but there is a bisexual tetraploid subspecies, Empetrum nigrum ssp. hermaphroditum, that occurs in more northerly locations and at higher altitude.Evolutionary biologists have explained the striking geographic distribution of crowberries as a result of long-distance migratory birds dispersing seeds from one pole to the other.The metabolism and photosynthetic parameters of Empetrum can be altered in winter-warming experiments.

Hän language

The Hän language (also known as Dawson, Han-Kutchin, Moosehide; ISO 639-3 haa) is a Northern Athabaskan language spoken by the Hän Hwëch'in (translated to people who live along the river, sometimes anglicized as Hankutchin). Hän is spoken primarily in two places, each with their own dialect: the village of Eagle, Alaska in the United States and the town of Dawson City, Yukon Territory in Canada, though there are also Hän speakers in the nearby city of Fairbanks, Alaska.Hän is in the Northern Athabaskan subgrouping of the Athabaskan-Eyak-Tlingit language family. It is most closely related to Gwich'in and Upper Tanana.

Indigenous peoples of the Subarctic

Indigenous peoples of the Subarctic are the aboriginal peoples who live in the Subarctic regions of the Americas, Asia and Europe, located south of the true Arctic. This region includes the interior of Alaska, the Western Subarctic or western Canadian Shield and Mackenzie River drainage area, the Eastern Subarctic or Eastern Canadian Shield, Scandinavia, Western Russia and East Asia. Peoples of subarctic Siberia and Greenland are included in the subarctic; however, Greenlandic Inuit are usually classified as Indigenous peoples of the Arctic.

Lists of islands

This is a list of lists of islands in the world grouped by oceans, by continents, and by other classifications. For rank-order lists, see the other lists of islands below.

Lower Tanana language

Lower Tanana (also Tanana and/or Middle Tanana) is an endangered language spoken in Interior Alaska in the lower Tanana River villages of Minto and Nenana. Of about 380 Tanana people in the two villages, about 30 still speak the language. As of 2010, "Speakers who grew up with Lower Tanana as their first language can be found only in the 250-person village of Minto." It is one of the large family of Athabaskan languages, also known as Dené.

The Athabaskan (or Dené) bands who formerly occupied a territory between the Salcha and the Goodpaster rivers spoke a distinct dialect that linguists term the Middle Tanana language.

Mari people

The Mari (Mari: мари, Russian: марийцы) are a Finno-Ugric ethnic group, who have traditionally lived along the Volga and Kama rivers in Russia. Almost half of Maris today live in the Mari El republic, with significant populations in the Bashkortostan and Tatarstan republics. In the past, the Mari have also been known as the Cheremisa or the Cheremis people in Russian and the Çirmeş in Tatar.

Picea mariana

Picea mariana, the black spruce, is a North American species of spruce tree in the pine family. It is widespread across Canada, found in all 10 provinces and all 3 Arctic territories. Its range extends into northern parts of the United States: in Alaska, the Great Lakes region, and the upper Northeast. It is a frequent part of the biome known as taiga or boreal forest.The Latin specific epithet mariana means “of the Virgin Mary”.

Pinus sibirica

Pinus sibirica, or Siberian pine, in the family Pinaceae is a species of pine tree that occurs in Siberia from 58°E in the Ural Mountains east to 126°E in the Stanovoy Range in southern Sakha Republic, and from Igarka at 68°N in the lower Yenisei valley, south to 45°N in central Mongolia.

Subarctic climate

The subarctic climate (also called subpolar climate, subalpine climate, or boreal climate) is a climate characterised by long, usually very cold winters, and short, cool to mild summers. It is found on large landmasses, away from the moderating effects of an ocean, generally at latitudes from 50° to 70°N poleward of the humid continental climates. These climates represent Köppen climate classification Dfc, Dwc, Dsc, Dfd, Dwd and Dsd. In very small areas at high altitudes around the Mediterranean Basin, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Alaska and other parts of the northwestern United States (Eastern Washington, Eastern Oregon and Southern Idaho) and Russian South-Eastern regions the climate is classified as Dsc with a dry summer climate, such as in Seneca, Oregon or Atlin, British Columbia.

Temperate climate

In geography, the temperate or tepid climates of Earth occur in the middle latitudes, which span between the tropics and the polar regions of Earth. These zones generally have wider temperature ranges throughout the year and more distinct seasonal changes compared to tropical climates, where such variations are often small. They typically feature four distinct seasons, Summer the warmest, Autumn the transitioning season to Winter, the colder season, and Spring the transitioning season from winter back into summer. On the northern hemisphere the year starts with winter, transitions in the first halfyear through spring into summer which is in mid-year, then at the second halfyear through autumn into winter at year-end. On the southern hemisphere seasons are swapped with summer in between years and winter in mid-year.

The temperate zones (latitudes from 23.5° to the polar circles at about 66.5°, north and south) are where the widest seasonal changes occur, with most climates found in it having some influence from both the tropics and the poles. The subtropics (latitudes from about 23.5° to 35°, north and south) have temperate climates that have the least seasonal change and the warmest in winter, while at the other end, Boreal climates located from 55 to 65 north latitude have the most seasonal changes and long and severe winters.

In temperate climates, not only do latitudinal positions influence temperature changes, but sea currents, prevailing wind direction, continentality (how large a landmass is), and altitude also shape temperate climates.

The Köppen climate classification defines a climate as "temperate" when the mean temperature is above −3 °C (26.6 °F) but below 18 °C (64.4 °F) in the coldest month. However, in more recent climate classifications climatologists use the 0 °C (32.0 °F) line .

Tsuga heterophylla

Tsuga heterophylla, the western hemlock or western hemlock-spruce, is a species of hemlock native to the west coast of North America, with its northwestern limit on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska, and its southeastern limit in northern Sonoma County, California.

Tutchone language

Tutchone is an Athabaskan language spoken by the Northern and Southern Tutchone First Nations in central and southern regions of Yukon Territory, Canada. Tutchone belongs to the Northern Athabaskan linguistic subfamily and has two primary varieties, Southern and Northern. Although they are sometimes considered separate languages, Northern and Southern Tutchone speakers are generally able to understand each other in conversation, albeit with moderate difficulty.Southern Tutchone is spoken in the Yukon communities of Aishihik, Burwash Landing, Champagne, Haines Junction, Kloo Lake, Klukshu, Lake Laberge, and Whitehorse.Northern Tutchone is spoken in the Yukon communities of Mayo, Pelly Crossing, Stewart Crossing, Carmacks, and Beaver Creek.

Upper Kuskokwim language

The Upper Kuskokwim language (also called Kolchan or Goltsan or Dinak'i) is an Athabaskan language of the Na-Dené language family. It is spoken by the Upper Kuskokwim people in the Upper Kuskokwim River villages of Nikolai, Telida, and McGrath, Alaska. About 40 of a total of 160 Upper Kuskokwim people (Dichinanek’ Hwt’ana) still speak the language.

A practical orthography of the language was established by Raymond Collins, who in 1964 began linguistic work at Nikolai.

Since 1990s, the language has also been documented by a Russian linguist Andrej Kibrik.

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