The Arctic Ocean is located in the Arctic north pole of the northern hemisphere. In terms of size and depth, the Arctic Ocean is smaller and shallower than the world’s other four oceans: the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, and Southern (Antarctic). The Arctic Ocean also has a lower salinity level due to a lesser rate of evaporation, as well as currents of fresh water draining into it from various nearby rivers. With an area of 5,400,025 square miles, the Arctic Ocean includes a series of bays and seas, such as Hudson Bay and Baffin Bay, as well the Beaufort Sea, Barents Sea, and White Sea. The ocean is surrounded by Asia, Europe, and North America, and borders numerous countries including Canada, Russia, Greenland, and Norway.
The Arctic Ocean is covered in masses of sea ice during most of the year, which can sometimes be hundreds of feet thick. The region does not experience much fluctuation throughout the year in terms of temperature, and temperatures during the long winter months remain very cold but stable. The freezing point of salt water is 28.8 °F, and the waters below the surface of the ice remain just above this temperature. Dark polar nights, calm water currents, and clear skies also play a role in keeping local temperatures consistent. Although the Arctic ice masses are covered in snow for 10 months of the year, the majority of this frozen precipitation accumulates during March and April, with average layers of snow reaching depths of between 7.9 and 19.7 inches.
Summers in the Arctic Ocean are typically cool and brief in duration. The ice sheets which cover the ocean are thinner during this time of year, although in many areas sea travel remains severely limited, if possible at all. During summer months, the climate in the Arctic Ocean is characterized by abundant sunlight (a weather phenomenon known as the midnight sun), moist and foggy air, and the occasional development of cyclones composed of precipitation in the form of either rain or snow.
Water Layer Subsections
The waters of the Arctic Ocean can be divided into three subsections: Arctic Surface Water (0 to 656 feet); Atlantic Water (650 to 2,950 feet); and Arctic Deep Water (2,950 feet down to the sea floor). Average temperatures of the Arctic Surface Water range from 28.6 °F to 30.2 °F, the Atlantic Water has an average temperature of 37.4 °F, and Arctic Deep Water has a temperature range of between 30.6 °F to 35.6 °F.
Like all of the world’s oceans, global warming has had a significant impact on the Arctic Ocean. In particular, the Arctic Ocean has experienced climate-related changes in terms of water temperature, ice pack thickness, and the amount of snow cover. Scientists studying international weather conditions have noted a significant loss of Arctic sea ice in recent years, with some experts warning that all ice masses in the Arctic region may melt as soon as the year 2040.