The Arctic Region covers the northernmost area of the earth and is centered on the North Pole. The arctic regions are not coextensive with the area enclosed by the Arctic Circle (latitude 66° 30′N). The regions include the Arctic Ocean; the north reaches of Canada, Alaska, Russia, Norway, and the Atlantic Ocean; Svalbard; most of Iceland; Greenland; and the Bering Sea. The Arctic Region is one of the world’s most sparsely populated areas.
In the center of the Arctic Region is a large basin occupied by the Arctic Ocean, which is slightly less than 1.5 times the size of the United States. The basin is nearly surrounded by the ancient continental shields of North America, Europe, and Asia, with the geologically more recent lowland plains, low plateaus, and mountain chains between them. Surface features vary from low coastal plains (swampy in summer, especially at the mouths of such rivers as the Mackenzie, Lena, Yenisei, and Ob River) to high ice plateaus and glaciated mountains. Tundras, extensive flat and poorly drained lowlands, dominate the regions. The most notable highlands are the Brooks Range of Alaska, the Innuitians of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, the Urals, and the mountains of east Russia. Greenland, the world’s largest island, is a high plateau covered by a vast ice sheet except in the coastal regions and smaller ice caps are found on other Arctic islands.
The climate of the Arctic, classified as polar, is characterized by long, cold winters and short, cool summers. The climate is moderated by oceanic influences, with regions abutting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans having generally warmer temperatures and heavier snowfalls than the colder and drier interior areas. The Arctic Ocean stays frozen throughout the year. Great seasonal changes in the length of days and nights are experienced north of the Arctic Circle, ranging from 24 hours of constant daylight ("midnight sun") or darkness at the Arctic Circle to 6 months of daylight or darkness at the North Pole. The Aurora Borealis, or northern lights, is a well−known occurrence in the arctic night sky. On November 9, 2011, a powerful Bering Sea storm hit the arctic area of western Alaska; the last time a similar storm of this magnitude hit the area was 37 years ago in November 1974 and before that in 1913.
CIA World Factbook; Columbia Gazetteer of the World Online, 04/2011; 11/2011