26 Jan 2016

Arctic Ocean or the Northern Ocean Facts

arctic ocean facts

Arctic Ocean Facts

Arctic Ocean which is also known as the Northern Ocean is the smallest member of the ocean family, where, you know, there are five members.

Arctic is the north pole of the globe and this ocean surrounds the pole. It is the opposite ocean of the Antarctic. Both these large water bodies are similar in characteristics.

The most important trait of the Arctic Ocean is its frozen waters. Most part of this ocean is freezing cold. One can find floating icebergs in the ocean.

Area and Extent


Arctic Map: Origin : CIA World Factbook

The Arctic Ocean covers 14,056,000 sq km (5,427,000 sq mi) of area. The ocean is in a circular basin surrounded by the continents of North America, Europe and Asia. Its extent is from the 90 degree north to 57 degrees north.

The narrow Bering Strait connects it with the Pacific Ocean. The channel to the Atlantic is wider that goes through the Greenland Sea and the Labrador Sea.

The Ocean is surrounded by the northern most Eurasian and American countries which are Russia, Norway, Greenland, Canada and Alaska.

Note: Bering Strait is the narrow channel between Siberia of Russia and Alaska of USA. Long times ago, when the sea levels were lower, there was an ice bridge across the channel. That bridge was used by some people to go to Americas from the Eurasian land mass.

Sea Floor

The continental shelves of the Arctic are the widest in the world. It extends more than 1200 Km in some areas from the continents. There are a few continental shelves which are under the ocean’s water like the Canadian Arctic Shelf, the Barents Shelf, Chukchi Sea Shelf and Siberian Shelf. Among these, the Siberian Shelf is the largest; in fact, it is the largest in the world.

The average depth is 3658 m or about 12000 ft. The deepest point is called as the Litke Deep (5,450 m or 17,880 ft).

arctic ocean topography
Topographic features of the Arctic Ocean

There is a submarine ridge named as he Lomonosov Ridge. The ridge is 1,800 kilometers (1,100 mi) long and about 60 to 200 Km wide. It divides the Arctic Basin into the Eurasian Basin and Amerasian Basin.

The Amerasian Basin is larger than the Eurasian Basin. Canada Basin is the deepest region of the Amerasian Basin. Alpha Ridge separates it from Makarov Basin

Gakkel Ridge divides the Eurasian Basin in two parts -  Nansen Basin and Amundsen Basin.

You can learn more about the Gakkel Ridge from Wikipedia.


The salinity of the Arctic Ocean is remarkably low at the surface levels. One of the main reasons of it is the huge freshwater input from a few very big rivers like the Ob, Lena, Yenisei, Mackenzie etc.

The water from these rivers are less dense due to less salinity and so it floats above the heavy, cold main water body of the ocean. Between these two levels is the halocline level where salinity and temperature increases with the depth.


Arctic Ocean is a polar region. Here the climate is always cold. The annual temperature difference is also narrow.

During the winter period, the sun can not be seen for a long period of time. In the North Pole, the duration of the winter night is 6 months ! That time period is lower in the areas farther from the pole.

The situation in summer is exact opposite. In that time, there is "midnight sun". Sun never sets for months and their remains a day for months without break.

Due to the mix of warmer water from the Pacific and the Atlantic ocean with the cold water of the ocean, mist and cloud is produced throughout the year. The cloud cover increases during the summer. Many cyclones are formed during the summer.

Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis

Aurora Borealis

In the Arctic region the famous colorful dancing lights or Aurora Borealis is visible during the polar nights. It is one of the wonders of nature. Shaded of blue, green, red, yellow and violate color makes it a spectacular scene.

The phenomena is caused by the collision of charged particles of sun with the gas atoms of the air at very high altitudes. That particles are attracted towards the magnetic poles which is near the geographical poles of the earth.

North Pole

The Geographic North Pole is located in the middle of the Northern Ocean. The point where North Pole is situated is covered by icy cold water and sheets of ice. The land is under the water,  4,261 m (13,980 ft) below. The nearest town or village to the North Pole is Alert in the Nunavut state of Canada, more than 500 mi south. The North Pole is such a place where time is difficult to determine because sun only rises and sets once in a year.

north pole
North Pole by NOAA



A big part of the Arctic remains frozen for the whole year. The ice cover varies seasonally. The average area covered by ice is about 15,600,000 sq km or 6,023,200 sq mi.
During the month of April, the ice cover can be seen in most part of it and in September the ice free areas get maximum areas. Actually, from October to June the ocean becomes in-navigable due to ice. The difference between the winter and summer ice coverage area is about 50%
arctic ice image
Arctic Ice

Sometimes, Floating icebergs flow from the Arctic to the Atlantic Ocean. Such an iceberg doomed the Titanic.

The formation of ice on the surface keeps the water of the ocean below warmer than the air of the region. The ice acts as a thermal insulator that keeps the cold air away.


The Arctic Ocean has its shoreline with some major industrialist countries. But due to the harsh natural conditions of the ocean, fishing or under sea mining activities are costly and difficult to carry out. But this region has huge amount of unexplored natural gas and oil deposits.

Some of the major sea ports of the Arctic are Murmansk, Arkhangelsk, Tiksi, Kirkenes, Verdo, Nuuk, Churchill, Nunavut, Barrow, etc. These ports are not open for all seasons.

Animals and Plants

The weather of the Arctic is too cold and harsh. But it is not lifeless. The ocean is teeming with life.

Most notable of Arctic creatures are the marine mammals. There are many types of cetaceans here like Orca, Narwhal, Beluga Whale, Bowhead Whale, Grey Whale, etc.

Beluga Whale
Beluga Whale

Among the pinnipeds most common are the Bearded Seals, Ribbon Seals, Ringed Seals, Harp Seals, Hooded Seals, Walruses, etc.

Arctic Animal Narwhal

Polar Bear is probably the most well known Arctic ocean animal. It is well known for big size and ferocious nature. It is the apex predator of the region.

Greenland shark is the largest fish of the ocean. There are more than 200 species of other fishes like Greenlings, Sculpins, Aligator fishes, Snailfishes etc.

In comparison to animals, the plant life of the ocean is minimal. There is no major plants except some phytoplankton.

Lion's Mane Jellyfish is large species of jelly which is abundant in the ocean. With the tentacles it can be more than 120 ft long ! You can learn more about that largest jellyfish from my post.

For further reading about Arctic Animals go to the following link:

Environmental Concerns
The ice layer of the ocean is constantly decreasing. The thinning of Arctic ice pack is matter of great concern because it can bring drastic changes in the weather patterns all over the world. It is estimated that the Northern Ocean is losing its ice at an alarming rate of 3% per year.
The ozone layer above the Arctic has also been leaked in many places. That leakage can destroy many species of animals and fishes. It can also genetically alter some of the species with dire consequences. 

Fishing and use of ice breakers has also observed to be harmful for the environment of this ocean. To save this sensitive spot of our world efforts have been taken by many government and non government agencies.

Do you have a collection of some more interesting facts about Arctic Ocean ? Do you want to know more about the Ocean ? If yes, then use the comment section below to let us know.