The Arctic Ocean is one the most pristine marine regions on the planet. It includes Baffin Bay in Canada and the Beaufort Sea in the United States and Canada. In the Arctic Ocean, there is a burst of plankton growth in spring that helps sustain all living things in the region for much of the rest of the year. The Arctic’s sea ice creates an ecosystem with many species found nowhere else on earth. The ice also reflects sunlight, which helps regulate global temperatures. But the Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the planet, altering both human communities and natural systems.
By the numbers
800,000 years in which there has been at least some sea ice in the Arctic Ocean year round.
4 million people call the Arctic region home
950 miles from Arctic to nearest Coast Guard station in the event of oil spill or shipping accident
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Many have predicted that the loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic will soon trigger a dramatic increase in commercial ship traffic through Canada’s Northwest Passage. This rests on the assumption that summer sea ice has been the main obstacle to expanded use of this Arctic Ocean shortcut from Asia to Europe, and to easier and more profitable access to Arctic minerals. Read More
Vessel traffic through the Bering Strait and northern Bering Sea could become safer as a result of new recommendations from the U.S. Coast Guard. This week the Coast Guard released its Bering Strait Port Access Route Study after a yearslong public process to develop a route and additional safety measures for the gateway between the Pacific and Arctic oceans. Read More
In late summer 2010, thousands of walruses came ashore, or hauled out, within earshot of the Iñupiat Eskimo community of Point Lay on the northwest coast of Alaska. Small numbers of these marine mammals were known to haul out from time to time in this region, and a massive herd had first done so a few years earlier. But this was the first time the animals had chosen a spot close to human... Read More