All About Arctic Climatology and Meteorology

Arctic collage

Credit: Laura Naranjo, NSIDC.

The Arctic is not just a region but also a system—physical, biological, chemical, climatological. The region encompassing the north polar region (the area north of the Arctic Circle) is largely an ocean basin surrounded by land. Over the ocean, sea ice grows throughout the autumn and winter, and melts throughout the spring and summer. On land, snow accumulates during the autumn and winter, and retreats over the summer. Snow retreat exposes tundra, which blooms with lichens, shrubs, and grasses in the warmest months of the year. To the south, tundra slowly transitions to forest.

Although the Arctic may seem far removed from the rest of the globe, Arctic climate and weather are closely linked with climate and weather elsewhere. Cold conditions in both the Arctic and Antarctic help to drive global circulation patterns in the atmosphere and ocean. Those circulation patters in turn affect climate and weather phenomena at lower latitudes, such as heatwaves, cold snaps, storms, floods, and droughts. At the same time, the Arctic's location and configuration creates phenomena rarely found elsewhere.