• Arctic
    Reindeer feed on mosses, lichens, and any other hardy vegetation that grows in Arctic regions.

    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.

    Arctic Water

    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.

    Arctic Noun

    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.

    beluga Noun

    white whale native to the Arctic Ocean.

    camouflage Verb

    to hide or disguise by blending in to surroundings. Also called cryptic coloration.

    caribou Noun

    large deer native to North America.

    climatologist Noun

    person who studies long-term patterns in weather.

    comprise Verb

    to contain or be made up of.

    copper Noun

    chemical element with the symbol Cu.

    culture Noun

    learned behavior of people, including their languages, belief systems, social structures, institutions, and material goods.

    devastate Verb

    to destroy.

    enormous Adjective

    very large.

    Equator Noun

    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.

    forest Noun

    ecosystem filled with trees and underbrush.

    freshwater Noun

    water that is not salty.

    frigid Adjective

    very cold.

    glacier Noun

    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.

    island Noun

    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.

    machinery Noun

    mechanical appliances or tools used in manufacturing.

    mine Verb

    to extract minerals from the Earth.

    moss Noun

    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.

    nutrient Noun

    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.

    ore Noun

    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.

    plant Noun

    organism that produces its own food through photosynthesis and whose cells have walls.

    puffin Noun

    sea bird with a large, brightly-colored bill.

    reindeer Noun

    type of large arctic deer. Also called caribou.

    Sami Noun

    people and culture native to northern Scandinavia.

    Scandinavia Noun

    region and name for some countries in Northern Europe: Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark.

    sea ice Noun

    frozen ocean water.

    seawater Noun

    salty water from an ocean or sea.

    shipping route Noun

    path in a body of water used for trade.

    Siberia Noun

    region of land stretching across Russia from the Ural Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.

    thrive Verb

    to develop and be successful.

    trade Noun

    buying, selling, or exchanging of goods and services.

    travel Noun

    movement from one place to another.

    tundra Noun

    cold, treeless region in Arctic and Antarctic climates.

    vegetation Noun

    all the plant life of a specific place.

    Yakut Noun

    people and culture native to eastern Siberia.