The Arctic

The Arctic is a vast, ice-covered ocean, surrounded by tree-less, frozen ground, that teems with life, including organisms living in the ice, fish and marine mammals, birds, land animals and human societies. Changes in the Arctic are happening rapidly. Time is of the very essence in our exploring and gathering of information needed to predict global impacts that might be consequences of these changes.

go exploring

Content Essays and NOAA Websites Related to the Arctic

Background essays are written by explorers involved in a specific expedition in order to provide further background on specific topic areas associated with the expedition. Below are selected essays and a few other web resources focused on the Arctic.

NOAA Arctic Report Card 2015

The annual update of the Arctic Report Card summarizes the quickly changing conditions in the Arctic. Support for the Arctic Report Card is provided by the NOAA Climate Program Office through the Arctic Research Program.

read

NOAA’s Arctic Research Program Website

This website is updated regularly to showcase NOAA's amazing commitments to science, service and stewardship in the Arctic region to support people and commerce.

read

Arctic Climate Change and the Chukchi Borderland Region

The Arctic Ocean is one of the most remote locations on Earth, as well as the region where the impact of climate change may be most strongly expressed.

read essay

Arctic Seafloor Fauna

Contrary to what one might expect in an ice-covered ocean, the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean is actually teeming with life.

read essay

Arctic Seabirds

Seabirds link the land to the sea, with most species completely dependent on marine ecosystems for their food.

read essay

Marine Biodiversity

The need to assess the current status of marine biodiversity in the Arctic is increasing as naturally and human-induced climate alterations affect the biota inhabiting the Arctic Ocean. In turn, biodiversity changes can serve as indicators of environmental change.

read essay

Observing Arctic Marine Mammals

The Bering Strait is the only gateway from the Pacific to the Arctic. As such, it is an important migratory corridor for marine mammals that spend the winter in the Bering Sea but much of the rest of the year in the Arctic.

read essay

New Discoveries Of and About Fishes in the High Arctic North of Siberia and Alaska

One goal of the 2012 Russian-American Long-term Census of the Arctic (RUSALCA) project was to generate and disseminate essential information on the poorly studied fish fauna of the Pacific-Arctic region.

read essay

RUSALCA: Racing the Arctic's Extreme Sea Ice Cover Change

Due to the alarming trend in the reduction of Arctic sea ice cover — particularly in the Chukchi Sea located between the Russian Federation (Chukotka) and the United States (Alaska) and northwards into the High Arctic — the Pacific Arctic is arguably the fastest changing region in the world’s fastest changing ocean. Observations provide a major step toward obtaining the foundation of information necessary for detecting ongoing and future change in this delicate ecosystem.

read essay

Spineless Wonders II: The Pelagic Fauna

During 2005 Hidden Ocean expedition, scientists searched the water column under the Arctic ice-sheet for rare and new species of zooplankton using scuba divers, an ROV, and plankton nets.

read essay

Arctic Sea Ice: Channels of Life

Sea ice consists of a mixture of ice crystals and brine channels, which form a three-dimensional network of tubes with diameters of a few micrometers to several cm. A specialized, sympagic (ice-associated) community has adapted to the variable conditions in this matrix.

read essay

Novel Microorganisms from the Cold Deep Sea

The greatest portion of the world's ocean is dark, cold, and deep (about 1 km), yet we know little about the life forms that dwell there or how they survive below the sunlit, food-rich surface layer. In spite of the seeming severity of the Arctic, here, microorganisms are uniquely adapted to darkness, cold, high pressure and a limited food supply.

read essay

Lessons

For each Ocean Explorer expedition, lessons are provided to support the content associated with the mission. You can visit our website here to search for lessons on a wide variety of deep-sea and open ocean topics. Use the search engine and see what you find on the Arctic. Here we provide you with some of our best lessons.

Just Jelly

Grades: 9-12

Focus
The common gelatinous zooplankton in the Chukchi Borderlands environment and their ecological roles (Life Science)

In this activity students compare and contrast the feeding strategies of at least three different types of gelatinous zooplankton and explain why gelatinous zooplankton may function at several trophic levels within a marine food web, then make inferences about potential influences on the distribution of planktonic species in the water column.

download pdf

Glaciers to Corals

Grades: 6-8

Focus
Factors that contribute to biodiversity in Glacier Bay National Park benthic ecosystems (Life Science)

In this activity students identify and explain factors that contribute to biodiversity in Glacier Bay National Park benthic ecosystems and evaluate design solutions for maintaining biodiversity.

download pdf

Three Cold Realms

Grades: 5-6

Focus
Biology within the pelagic, benthic and sea ice realms

In this activity, students will be able to compare and contrast the pelagic, benthic and sea ice realms of the Arctic Ocean, name at least three organisms that are typical of each of these three realms, and explain how the pelagic, benthic and sea ice realms interact with each other.

download pdf

Polar Bear Panic!

Grades: 5-6

Focus:
Climate change in the Arctic Ocean

Students identify the three realms of the Arctic Ocean, and describe the relationships among these realms; graphically analyze data on sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean, and recognize a trend in these data; discuss possible causes for observed trends in Arctic sea ice, and infer the potential impact of these trends on biological communities in the Arctic.

download pdf

Where Have All the Glaciers Gone

Grades: 7-8

Focus
Arctic climate change

Students will describe how climate change is affecting sea ice, vegetation, and glaciers in the Arctic region, explain how changes in the Arctic climate can produce global impacts, and will be able to provide three examples of such impacts. Students will also explain how a given impact resulting from climate change may be considered ‘positive’ as well as ‘negative’, and will be able to provide at least one example of each. Hands-on activity: Make a photocube showing changes in glaciers.

download pdf

Meet the Arctic Benthos

Grades: 7-8

Focus
Benthic invertebrate groups in the Arctic Ocean

Students will explain how aspects of structure and function are involved with common feeding strategies used by benthic animals in the Arctic Ocean; discuss patterns in interdependent relationships between groups of animals in Arctic benthic communities; and discuss how changes in the Arctic environment may affect biodiversity in Arctic benthic communities.

download pdf

Would You Like to Take a Sample?

Grades: 7-8

Focus
Sampling strategies for biological communities

Students identify the three realms of the Arctic Ocean, describe the relationships between these realms and discuss the advantages and limitations of sampling techniques to study biological communities.

download pdf

Burp Under the Ice

Grades: 9-12

Focus
Potential role of Arctic methane deposits in climate change

Students identify the natural processes that produce methane, describe where methane deposits are located in the Arctic region, explain how warmer climates may affect Arctic methane deposits, explain how the release of large volumes of methane might affect Earth’s climate, and describe how methane releases may have contributed to mass extinction events in Earth’s geologic history.

download pdf

Current Events

Grades: 9-12

Focus
Currents and water circulation in the Arctic Ocean

Students identify the primary driving forces for ocean currents and infer the type of water circulation to be expected in the Arctic Ocean, given information on temperature, salinity, and bathymetry.

download pdf

Multimedia

Below are links to a few videos and images focused on the Arctic.

Past Ocean Exploration Expeditions Related to the Arctic

OceanAGE Careers Connections

The Ocean Careers to Inspire Another Generation of Explorers, or OceanAGE Careers webpage, invites students to learn about the talented people who explore our ocean planet. From underwater pilots to research scientists, these marine explorers provide students with first-hand knowledge of exciting careers through videotaped interviews and written profiles. Here is one scientist who studies and explores the Arctic.

Kristine Laidre
Marine Mammal Biologist

Amanda Kelley
Assistant Professor

Explorers in Training

Meet NOAA's newest ocean explorers, who have trained on the Okeanos Explorer.

The above items are only a selection of Arctic content on our website.

view all arctic content