Oil in ANWR
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), situated on Alaska's northeastern coast, is the largest protected wilderness in the United States. Extractive activities are allowed in the refuge, as long as the U.S. Congress approves. Some geologists estimate that there may be between 5 billion and 16 billion barrels of oil and natural gas beneath the coastal plain of the refuge. People have debated since the 1970s about whether to develop this pristine area, but Congress has not given any approval to drill or mine there.
An icebreaker is a very powerful ship capable of breaking up kilometers of sea ice, sometimes several meters thick. Icebreakers are necessary for winter navigation in the Arctic and Antarctic. Icebreakers are most often powered by nuclear fuel, but can also run on gas and steam. They can be uncomfortable to travel in, as their shape allows them to roll back and forth more easily than other heavy ships. Russia manufactures the most powerful icebreakers.
The Arctic is the northernmost region of the Earth. Most scientists define the region as the area within the Arctic Circle, which is the line of latitude about 66.5 degrees north of the Equator. Within this circle are the Arctic Ocean and the northern parts of Scandinavia, Russia, Canada, the U.S. state of Alaska, and Greenland.
Many communities and cultures have thrived for centuries in this frigid region, living off fish, seals, and other animals. Some indigenous people native to the Arctic include:
- Eskimos, composed of several groups spread across northern Russia, Alaska, Canada, and Greenland
- Aleuts, who live on islands off Alaska and Russias Kamchatka Peninsula
- Sami, (sometimes called Lapps or Laplanders) from Scandinavia and Russia
- Yakuts, from Siberia
Although some forests lie near the Arctic Circle, plant life is limited mainly to tundra vegetation such as mosses and lichens. These plants have the ability to survive despite being covered in snow and ice for most of the year.
Animals of the Arctic include polar bears, caribou, reindeer, muskoxen, arctic foxes, puffins, snowy owls, seals, and walruses. Many animals of the Arctic are white. This coloring helps camouflage them in the heavy snow.
Marine animals thrive in the Arctic. The cold water is rich in nutrients such as plankton and algae. Blue whales, killer whales, crabs, shrimp, and many varieties of fish are native to the Arctic Ocean. One whale, the beluga, takes the same form of camouflage as land animals: It is entirely white.
The Arctic is also rich in nickel and copper ore. Some of these deposits are underground, while others are buried beneath the Arctic Ocean. Onshore mines are sometimes not able to operate during the winter. Machinery freezes, and the frozen ground becomes too hard to drill.
The Arctic also has enormous amounts of oil and natural gas. In the U.S., many oil companies work with indigenous groups known as native corporations to drill and export millions of barrels of oil every year. Oil wells in Alaska produce about 14 percent of all the oil drilled in the U.S.
The Arctic is almost entirely covered by the Arctic Ocean, some of which remains frozen all year. This frozen seawater is called sea ice.
Due to the current period of global warming, the amount of sea ice in the Arctic is shrinking. Most climatologists estimate that by the year 2100, most Arctic sea ice will melt every summer. This would devastate many marine habitats, but provide clear shipping routes for trade and travel.
Icebergs and glaciers are not sea ice; they are frozen fresh water. The glaciers and icebergs in the Arctic make up about 20 percent of Earths supply of fresh water.
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry Aleut Noun
people and culture native to the Aleutian Islands of western Alaska and eastern Siberia.
algae Plural Noun
(singular: alga) diverse group of aquatic organisms, the largest of which are seaweeds.
region at Earth's extreme north, encompassed by the Arctic Circle.
Encyclopedic Entry: Arctic Arctic Circle Noun
paralell of latitude that runs 66.5 degrees north of the Equator.
white whale native to the Arctic Ocean.
to hide or disguise by blending in to surroundings. Also called cryptic coloration.
large deer native to North America.
person who studies long-term patterns in weather.
to contain or be made up of.
chemical element with the symbol Cu.
learned behavior of people, including their languages, belief systems, social structures, institutions, and material goods.
imaginary line around the Earth, another planet, or star running east-west, 0 degrees latitude.
Encyclopedic Entry: equator Eskimo Noun
people and culture native to the Arctic region of eastern Russia, the U.S. state of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland.
ecosystem filled with trees and underbrush.
water that is not salty.
mass of ice that moves slowly over land.
Encyclopedic Entry: glacier global warming Noun
increase in the average temperature of the Earth's air and oceans.
Encyclopedic Entry: global warming habitat Noun
environment where an organism lives throughout the year or for shorter periods of time.
Encyclopedic Entry: habitat iceberg Noun
large chunks of ice that break off from glaciers and float in the ocean.
Encyclopedic Entry: iceberg indigenous people Noun
ethnic group that has lived in the same region for all of their known history.
body of land surrounded by water.
Encyclopedic Entry: island latitude Noun
distance north or south of the Equator, measured in degrees.
Encyclopedic Entry: latitude lichen Noun
organism composed of fungus and algae.
mechanical appliances or tools used in manufacturing.
to extract minerals from the Earth.
tiny plant usually found in moist, shady areas.
native corporations Noun
business organizations concerned with economic decisions for a region of Alaska in which native Alaskans own all the stock. Also called ANCSA corporations, after the 1971 law that created these units, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.
natural gas Noun
type of fossil fuel made up mostly of the gas methane.
Encyclopedic Entry: natural gas nickel Noun
chemical element with the symbol Ni.
substance an organism needs for energy, growth, and life.
Encyclopedic Entry: nutrient oil barrel Noun
unit of measurement for oil and other petroleum products in the United States equal to 159 liters or 42 gallons. Abbreviated bbl.
oil refinery Noun
industrial plant where raw, crude oil is processed into useable products such as gas or kerosene.
deposit in the Earth of minerals containing valuable metal.
Encyclopedic Entry: ore peninsula Noun
piece of land jutting into a body of water.
Encyclopedic Entry: peninsula plankton Plural Noun
(singular: plankton) microscopic aquatic organisms.
organism that produces its own food through photosynthesis and whose cells have walls.
sea bird with a large, brightly-colored bill.
type of large arctic deer. Also called caribou.
people and culture native to northern Scandinavia.
region and name for some countries in Northern Europe: Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark.
sea ice Noun
frozen ocean water.
salty water from an ocean or sea.
shipping route Noun
path in a body of water used for trade.
region of land stretching across Russia from the Ural Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.
to develop and be successful.
buying, selling, or exchanging of goods and services.
movement from one place to another.
cold, treeless region in Arctic and Antarctic climates.
all the plant life of a specific place.
people and culture native to eastern Siberia.