Arctic Ocean

Which ocean is the only one located entirely within the Northern Hemisphere?

And the answer: Arctic.    

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Centered around the North Pole, the Arctic Ocean is the world's smallest ocean, and the only one located entirely in the Northern Hemisphere. Countries and territories with shores on the Arctic include Canada, Russia, the United States, Greenland, Iceland, and Norway.

As the world's northernmost ocean, the Arctic Ocean is one of the most essential cold-water ecosystems on the planet. Incredible arrays of ocean life occupy its frigid waters, yet much of what dwells in the Arctic has evolved to make do under thick layers of frozen sea ice. Species like the beluga, pacific salmon, walrus, arctic narwhal, and gray whale thrive in this low-light environment, while land mammals have evolved to make use of the tundra and its diverse environment in other ways. Polar bears remain the most iconic Arctic species, and live only in this landscape.

Interestingly, the composition of the Arctic Ocean is physiologically distinct from its neighboring North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Most notable is the covering ice pack, which reduces the exchange of energy between ocean and atmosphere by about 100 times. Additionally, sea ice greatly reduces the penetration of sunlight needed for the photosynthetic processes of marine life— thus the ability for marine animals to survive in such cold conditions. Further, the Arctic's abundance of connected shallow seas to deep basins is unique to the region, and creates surface water conditions that can not be found anywhere else on the planet.

There are approximately 4 million people living across the Arctic, and it’s estimated that on average 10% of these are indigenous. In Greenland however, approximately 89% of the population belongs to one of Greenland’s three indigenous Inuit ethnic groups: the Kalaallit, Tunumiit and Inughuit. These indigenous populations have learned how to find food, fuel and housing on the Arctic land and sea over millenia.

Learn more about the species, people groups and wildlife that calls the Arctic home here.

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