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Arctic Ocean
Map of Arctic Ocean
Introduction Arctic Ocean
Arctic Ocean is smallest of world's five oceans (after Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, and recently delimited Southern Ocean). Northwest Passage (US and Canada) and Northern Sea Route (Norway and Russia) are two important seasonal waterways. A sparse network of air, ocean, river, and land routes circumscribes Arctic Ocean.
Geography Arctic Ocean
body of water between Europe, Asia, and North America, mostly north of Arctic Circle
Geographic coordinates:
90 00 N, 0 00 E
Map references:
Arctic Region
total: 14.056 million sq km
note: includes Baffin Bay, Barents Sea, Beaufort Sea, Chukchi Sea, East Siberian Sea, Greenland Sea, Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait, Kara Sea, Laptev Sea, Northwest Passage, and other tributary water bodies
Area - comparative:
slightly less than 1.5 times size of US
45,389 km
polar climate characterized by persistent cold and relatively narrow annual temperature ranges; winters characterized by continuous darkness, cold and stable weather conditions, and clear skies; summers characterized by continuous daylight, damp and foggy weather, and weak cyclones with rain or snow
central surface covered by a perennial drifting polar icepack that averages about 3 meters in thickness, although pressure ridges may be three times that size; clockwise drift pattern in Beaufort Gyral Stream, but nearly straight-line movement from New Siberian Islands (Russia) to Denmark Strait (between Greenland and Iceland); icepack is surrounded by open seas during summer, but more than doubles in size during winter and extends to encircling landmasses; ocean floor is about 50% continental shelf (highest percentage of any ocean) with remainder a central basin interrupted by three submarine ridges (Alpha Cordillera, Nansen Cordillera, and Lomonosov Ridge)
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Fram Basin -4,665 m
highest point: sea level 0 m
Natural resources:
sand and gravel aggregates, placer deposits, polymetallic nodules, oil and gas fields, fish, marine mammals (seals and whales)
Natural hazards:
ice islands occasionally break away from northern Ellesmere Island; icebergs calved from glaciers in western Greenland and extreme northeastern Canada; permafrost in islands; virtually ice locked from October to June; ships subject to superstructure icing from October to May
Environment - current issues:
endangered marine species include walruses and whales; fragile ecosystem slow to change and slow to recover from disruptions or damage; thinning polar icepack
Geography - note:
major chokepoint is southern Chukchi Sea (northern access to Pacific Ocean via Bering Strait); strategic location between North America and Russia; shortest marine link between extremes of eastern and western Russia; floating research stations operated by US and Russia; maximum snow cover in March or April about 20 to 50 centimeters over frozen ocean; snow cover lasts about 10 months

Economy Arctic Ocean
Economy - overview:
Economic activity is limited to exploitation of natural resources, includes petroleum, natural gas, fish, and seals.

Transportation Arctic Ocean
Ports and harbors:
Churchill (Canada), Murmansk (Russia), Prudhoe Bay (US)
Transportation - note:
sparse network of air, ocean, river, and land routes; Northwest Passage (North America) and Northern Sea Route (Eurasia) are important seasonal waterways

Transnational Issues Arctic Ocean
Disputes - international:
some maritime disputes (see littoral states)