Arctic Ocean

The Arctic Ocean, located entirely in the North Pole region, is the

smallest of the world's oceans. It occupies a roughly circular basin and

covers an area of about 14,090,000 sq km (5,440,000 sq mi). Nearly

landlocked, the ocean is surrounded by the land masses of Europe,

Asia, North America, and Greenland and a number of islands, as well

as by the BARENTS, BEAUFORT, CHUKCHI, KARA, LAPTEV, East

Siberian, Lincoln, Wandel, Greenland, and Norwegian seas. It is

connected to the Pacific Ocean by the BERING STRAIT and to the

Atlantic Ocean through the Greenland Sea.

An underwater ocean ridge, the LOMONOSOV RIDGE, divides the

Arctic Ocean into two basins: the Eurasian, or Nansen, Basin, which

is between 4,000 and 4,500 m (13,000 and 15,000 ft) deep, and the

North American, or Hyperborean, Basin, which is about 4,000 m deep.

The topography of the ocean bottom is marked by fault-block ridges,

plains of the ABYSSAL ZONE, ocean deeps, and basins.

The greatest inflow of water comes from the Atlantic by way of the

Norwegian Current, which then flows along the Eurasian coast. Water

also enters from the Pacific via the Bering Strait. The East Greenland Current carries the major outflow.Temperature and salinity vary

seasonally as the ice cover melts and freezes. Ice covers most of the ocean surface year-round, causing subfreezing temperatures

much of the time. The Arctic is a major source of very cold air that inevitably moves toward the equator, meeting with warmer air in

the middle latitudes and causing rain and snow. Little marine life exists where the ocean surface is covered with ice throughout the

year. Marine life abounds in open areas, especially the more southerly waters. The ocean's major ports are the Soviet cities

MURMANSK and ARKHANGELSK (Archangel). The Arctic Ocean is strategically important as the shortest route between North

America and the USSR.

Bibliography: Neatby, L. H., Discovery in Russian and Siberian Waters (1973); Ray, L., and Stonehouse, B., eds., The Arctic Ocean

(1982); Thoren, Ragnar, Picture Atlas of the Arctic (1969).

Related Essays on Environment