Earth's polar regions are the areas of the globe surrounding the poles also known as frigid zones. The North Pole and South Pole being the centers, these regions are dominated by the polar ice caps, resting respectively on the Arctic Ocean and the continent of Antarctica. Polar sea ice is currently diminishing, possibly as a result of anthropogenic global warming.
has numerous definitions, including the region north of the Arctic Circle
(66-33N), or the region north of 60 degrees north latitude
, or the region from the North Pole south to the timberline
The Antarctic is usually defined as south of 60 degrees south latitude, or the continent of Antarctica. The 1959 Antarctic Treaty uses the former definition..
Polar regions receive less intensive solar radiation
because the sun's energy arrives at an oblique angle, spreading over a larger area, and also travels a longer distance through the Earth's atmosphere in which it may be absorbed, scattered or reflected, which is the same thing that causes winters to be colder than the rest of the year in temperate areas.
The axial tilt of the Earth has a major effect on climate of the polar regions. Since the polar regions are the farthest from the equator, they receive the least amount of sunlight and are therefore frigid. The large amount of ice and snow also reflects a large part of what little sunlight the Polar regions receive, contributing to the cold. Polar regions are characterized by the polar climate, extremely cold temperatures, heavy glaciation wherever there is sufficient precipitation to form permanent ice, and extreme variations in daylight hours, with twenty-four hours of daylight in summer (the midnight sun), and darkness at mid-winter.
Circumpolar Arctic Region
There are many settlements in Earth's north polar region. Countries with claims to Arctic regions are: the United States
, and Russia
. Arctic circumpolar populations often share more in common which each other than with other populations within their national boundaries. As such, the northern polar region is diverse in human settlements and cultures.
Antarctica and the Southern Ocean
The southern polar region has no permanent human habitation. McMurdo Station is the largest research station in Antarctica, run by the United States. Other notable stations include Palmer Station and Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station (United States), Esperanza Base and Marambio Base (Argentina), Scott Base (New Zealand), and Vostok Station (Russia).
While there are no indigenous human cultures, there is a complex ecosystem, especially along Antarctica's coastal zones. Coastal upwelling provides abundant nutrients which feeds krill, a type of marine crustacea, which in turn feeds a complex of living creatures from penguins to blue whales.
Extraterrestrial polar regions
and natural satellites
in the solar system
have interesting quirks about their polar regions. Earth's Moon
is thought to contain substantial deposits of ice
in deep craters in its polar regions, which never see direct sunlight
, like Earth, has polar ice caps
. On Uranus
, meanwhile, the extreme tilt of the planet's axis leads to the poles alternately pointing almost directly at the Sun