Arctic Circle

Arctic Circle

Arctic Circle, imaginary circle on the surface of the earth at 661/2°N latitude, i.e., 231/2° south of the North Pole. It marks the northernmost point at which the sun can be seen at the winter solstice (about Dec. 22) and the southernmost point of the northern polar regions at which the midnight sun is visible.

The Arctic Circle is one of the five major circles of latitude that mark maps of the Earth. It is the parallel of latitude that runs 66° 33′39″(or 66.56083°) north of the Equator. The region north of this circle is known as the Arctic, and the zone just to the south is called the Northern Temperate Zone. The equivalent latitude in the Southern Hemisphere is called the Antarctic Circle.

The Arctic Circle marks the southern extremity of the polar day (24-hour sunlit day, often referred to as the "midnight sun") and polar night (24-hour sunless night). North of the Arctic Circle, the sun is above the horizon for 24 continuous hours at least once per year and below the horizon for 24 continuous hours at least once per year. On the Arctic Circle those events occur, in principle, exactly once per year, at the June and December solstices, respectively.

In fact, because of atmospheric refraction and because the sun appears as a disk and not a point, part of the midnight sun may be seen on the night of the summer solstice up to about 50(90 km) south of the Arctic Circle; similarly, on the day of the winter solstice, part of the sun may be seen up to about 50′north of the Arctic Circle. That is true at sea level; those limits increase with elevation above sea level although in mountainous regions, there is often no direct view of the horizon.

The position of the Arctic Circle is not fixed, but directly depends on the Earth's axial tilt, which in the long term fluctuates within a margin of 2°, notably due to tidal forces resulting from the orbit of the Moon. The Arctic Circle is currently drifting northwards at a speed of about 15 metres per year, see Circle of latitude for more information.


The Arctic Circle passes through the Arctic Ocean, the Scandinavian peninsula, North Asia, Northern America and Greenland. The land on the Arctic Circle is divided between eight countries, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, the United States (i.e. Alaska), Canada, Denmark (i.e. Greenland) and Iceland.

Starting at the Prime Meridian and heading eastwards, the Arctic Circle passes through:

long Country, territory or sea Notes
10° Arctic Ocean Norwegian Sea
15° Rødøy Svartisen Bogvatnet
20° Jokkmokk
25° Rovaniemi Lake Kemijärvi
30° 40° Karelia Kandalaksha Gulf Kola Peninsula
41°-43° White Sea
45° 50° Nenetsia
55° 60° Komi
65° 70° 75° 80° Yamalia Salekhard Gulf of Ob
85° Krasnoyarsk
90° 100° 105° Evenkia
110° 120° 130° 135° 140° 150° 155° Sakha Udachnaya pipe
160° 170° E 180° Chukotka
170° W Arctic Ocean Chukchi Sea
165° Alaska Seward Peninsula
163° Arctic Ocean Kotzebue Sound
165° 160° 150° Alaska Selawik Lake Fort Yukon
140° 130° Yukon
120° Northwest Territories Great Bear Lake
110° 100° 90° Nunavut
80° Foxe Basin
70° 65° Nunavut Baffin Island Mount Thor
60° 55° Atlantic Ocean Davis Strait
50° 45° 40° 35° Helheim Glacier
30° 25° Atlantic Ocean Denmark Strait
20° 15° Island of Grímsey
10° Arctic Ocean Norwegian Sea

Few people live north of the Arctic Circle due to the cold conditions. The three largest communities above the Arctic Circle are situated in Russia; Murmansk (population 325,100), Norilsk (135,000), and Vorkuta (85,000). Tromsø (in Norway) has about 62,000 inhabitants, whereas Rovaniemi (in Finland), which lies slightly south of the line, has slightly fewer than 58,000.

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