written by: Rafael•edited by: Sarah Malburg•updated: 2/24/2010
There are places on Earth were climate conditions are very harsh. Polar regions are one of them. Here climate is frigid and life is scarce. Learn what is the polar region and what would it be like to live in the Arctic or the Antarctic.
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What is the Polar Region?
The polar region is the area that surrounds the Earth’s geographic North or South Poles. There are two distinct polar regions on Earth; one in the north, the Arctic (surrounding the North Pole) and one in the south, the Antarctic (surrounding the South Pole). The exact definition of each polar region has changed over time. In 1959, the Antarctic Treaty defined the Antarctic polar region as the region south of the 60° South latitude. The Arctic polar region is more ambiguous in its definition. Some call the Arctic anything north of the Arctic Circle (66°33'N), others call it the region north of 60° North latitude, while many others call it anything from the North Pole south to the timberline.
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The Arctic Polar Region
The Arctic polar region is the entire area that surrounds the North Pole. The Arctic polar region is claimed by the United States, Denmark, Canada, Norway, and Russia. Perhaps the most known areas of the North Polar region are Alaska (United States) and Greenland (Denmark). The Arctic polar region has abundant human settlements, especially in Alaska, Greenland, and the Siberia region of Russia. The Inuits could be considered the indigenous people of the North Polar region, however, people of non-Inuit origin from Sweden, Finland, Iceland, and Greenland live near the border of the arctic polar region as well.
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The Antarctica Polar Region
The Antarctic polar region surrounds the South Pole. The southern polar region is made of the continent of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. Contrary to the North polar region, Antarctica is uninhabited by people. There are some research and exploration bases maintained by the United States (McMurdo Station, Palmer Station, and Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station), Argentina (Esperanza Base and Marambio Base), Russia (Vostok Station) and New Zealand (Scott Base).
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Climate and Life of the Polar Regions
Polar regions are the farthest from the Equator and because of this, they receive less sun radiation than any other place on Earth. This determines that climate conditions of the polar regions are harsh and cold. In fact, polar regions are also known as frigid zones because of the low temperatures that they have all year long. Polar regions have polar climates with extremely low temperatures, 24 hour daylight in summer and 24 hour darkness in winter.
Despite the harshness of the polar region’s climate, there are complex ecosystems with plenty of biological species. Different species of penguins, albatrosses, and skuas can be found in Antarctica. Also, seals and whales live in the ocean waters of the Southern Ocean. Polar regions are permanently covered by ice so they have no soil and because of this, they contain no trees or shrubs. The Arctic polar region also has polar bears living there.
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Windows to the Universe. University of Michigan: www.windows.ucar.edu/tour/link=/earth/polar/polar_geog.html
The Antarctic Treaty: www.ats.aq/documents/ats/treaty_original.pdf
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National Science Foundation http://www.nsf.gov/news/mmg/mmg_disp.cfm?med_id=58221&from=img