The World Factbook (1990)/Arctic Ocean

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The World Factbook (1990)
United States Central Intelligence Agency
Arctic Ocean

pages 13–14

Arctic Ocean

World Factbook (1990) Arctic Ocean.jpg


Total area: 14,056,000 km²; includes Baffin Bay, Barents Sea, Beaufort Sea, Chukchi Sea, East Siberian Sea, Greenland Sea, Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait, Kara Sea, Laptev Sea, and other tributary water bodies

Comparative area: slightly more than 1.5 times the size of the US; smallest of the world's four oceans (after Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, and Indian Ocean)

Coastline: 45,389 km

Climate: persistent cold and relatively narrow annual temperature ranges; winters characterized by continuous darkness, cold and stable weather conditions, and clear skies; summers characterized by continuous daylight, damp and foggy weather, and weak cyclones with rain or snow

Terrain: central surface covered by a perennial drifting polar icepack which averages about 3 meters in thickness, although pressure ridges may be three times that size; clockwise drift pattern in the Beaufort Gyral Stream, but nearly straight line movement from the New Siberian Islands (USSR) to Denmark Strait (between Greenland and Iceland); the ice pack is surrounded by open seas during the summer, but more than doubles in size during the winter and extends to the encircling land masses; the ocean floor is about 50% continental shelf (highest percentage of any ocean) with the remainder a central basin interrupted by three submarine ridges (Alpha Cordillera, Nansen Cordillera, and Lomonsov Ridge); maximum depth is 4,665 meters in the Fram Basin

Natural resources: sand and gravel aggregates, placer deposits, polymetallic nodules, oil and gas fields, fish, marine mammals (seals, whales)

Environment: endangered marine species include walruses and whales; ice islands occasionally break away from northern Ellesmere Island; icebergs calved from western Greenland and extreme northeastern Canada; maximum snow cover in March or April about 20 to 50 centimeters over the frozen ocean and lasts about 10 months; permafrost in islands; virtually icelocked from October to June; fragile ecosystem slow to change and slow to recover from disruptions or damage

Note: major chokepoint is the southern Chukchi Sea (northern access to the Pacific Ocean via the Bering Strait); ships subject to superstructure icing from October to May; strategic location between North America and the USSR; shortest marine link between the extremes of eastern and western USSR; floating research stations operated by the US and USSR


Overview: Economic activity is limited to the exploitation of natural resources, including crude oil, natural gas, fishing, and sealing.


Ports: Churchill (Canada), Murmansk (USSR), Prudhoe Bay (US)

Telecommunications: no submarine cables

Note: sparse network of air, ocean, river, and land routes; the Northwest Passage (North America) and Northern Sea Route (Asia) are important waterways