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Test Your Knowledge About the Arctic!
1. Where is the Arctic?
a) Surrounding the North Pole
b) Surrounding the South Pole
c) At the Equator
d) In the Himalayan Mountains
2. True or false: Penguins live in the Arctic.
3. How do polar bears stay warm?
a) They wear a jacket
b) They have thick fur
c) They have a layer of fat under their skin
d) Both b and c
4. How deep is the Arctic Ocean beneath the North Pole?
a) 3 feet
b) 200 feet
c) 2.5 miles
d) 1,000 miles
5. The North Pole receives only one sunset and one sunrise per year. On which day does the sun set?
a) June 20 or 21 (summer solstice)
b) September 22 or 23 (autumn equinox)
c) March 20 or 21 (spring equinox)
d) December 21 or 22 (winter solstice)
The Ocean in Motion: From the Tropics to the Poles
The World’s oceans — the Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic, Indian and Southern — may seem like separate bodies of water. But they are all connected! Sea water circulates around the world’s ocean in a giant “ocean conveyor belt,” which regulates weather and climate. How do the Arctic and Antarctic (Earth’s polar regions) play a role? Try this activity to find out.
- A pitcher or container
- Tap water
- Food dye (a dark color)
- Ice cube tray
- Clear glass baking pan
What to do:
Preparation: Fill the pitcher with water and mix in two or three drops of food dye. Fill the ice cube tray with the colored water and wait for the ice cubes to freeze.
- Fill the glass pan with warm tap water. This represents warm water at the Equator.
- Place one ice cube at each end of the pan. These represent cold water in the Arctic and Antarctic. Watch what happens when the ice cubes start to melt!
The tropics (the region around the Equator) receive more energy from the Sun than the polar regions do. As a result, ocean water is warmer there and more water evaporates there than around the Poles, leaving tropical water saltier and more dense. As this water moves toward the Poles, it gradually sinks. Colder water with less salt is found around polar regions. This water travels deep in the ocean toward the tropics, where it warms and rises. This process forms a giant conveyor belt of ocean water that moves heat and salt around the globe and regulates Earth’s weather and climate. Our Earth wouldn’t be the same without it!
Activity based on Understanding Oceans from Discovery Education. Image courtesy of NASA.
The Northern Lights: Aurora Borealis
During the Arctic’s long, dark winters, the Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights can be seen.
The Northern Lights occur when energy from the Sun during a solar flare or other solar event reaches Earth’s magnetosphere — the magnetic field surrounding the planet. Particles in the magnetosphere get energized and collide with molecules in the upper atmosphere above the Pole and a glowing light is released.
When an aurora is very strong, it can sometimes be seen in the Northern United States and Canada. Click here to find your probability for viewing it, learn about aurora-watching, and take an online guided tour through the world of auroras.
Image courtesy of NASA.
Learn fun facts about the Arctic!
- The Arctic is a region north of 66.5 degrees North latitude. Some scientists also classify it as north of the treeline, the region in which trees do not grow.
- The Arctic is full of life! Microscopic plants and animals, crabs, birds, Arctic foxes, walruses, whales and polar bears all make their home there. There are no penguins, though — penguins live in the Antarctic (near the South Pole), not the Arctic.
- Polar bears are at the top of the Arctic food chain. Their favorite meal is seal. A polar bear can smell a seal 20 miles away!
- The Arctic gets its name from the ancient Greek word for the Great Bear star constellation in the Northern sky, which the Greeks called Arctus. The constellation is now commonly known as The Big Dipper, or Ursa Major. We can see it from the United States when looking at the night sky.
First image courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Second image drawn by Christopher Krembs. Polar bear image by Suzanne Miller, courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Big Dipper image courtesy of NASA.
Check out these cool tips and tools about the Arctic!
Tips on Where to Learn More
- Some Arctic birds migrate south for the winter. Visit the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge kids page to learn about birds you might find in your neighborhood
- Find out about Vikings who explored the North Atlantic
- Read about how climate change is affecting Arctic peoples
- Learn about Arctic animal adaptations
- Read about the difference between the North and South Poles
- Find out why it’s cold at the Poles
Image of snowy owl courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Cool Online Tools
- Check out the Athropolis website, including Arctic maps and weather rports
- Look at pictures of Arctic animals
- Read about kids who tracked polar bears as part of Discovery’s Serious Arctic
- Play the Arctic Trivia Challenge
- Watch a video of scientists of scientists drilling ice cores in Greenland
- Watch a video about Arctic wildlife
Image of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
1) a. The Arctic is the region of the Earth above 66.5 degrees North latitude (the Arctic Circle) that surrounds the North Pole. It
consists of tundra, ocean and sea ice and contains parts of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Finland and
2) False. Penguins live in Antarctica (near the South Pole) and polar bears live in the Arctic (near the North Pole). There are 17
species of penguins that live in various parts of the Southern Hemisphere – in places like South Africa, Chile and Antarctica. There is only one species of polar bear in the world and it lives in the Arctic. Penguins and polar bears have never met, except perhaps in a zoo.
3) d. Polar bears and other Arctic marine animals have adapted to life in cold temperatures. Polar bears have a layer of fat (called
blubber) under their skin, and they are covered with fur. Their skin is black, which helps to absorb heat from sunlight.
4) c. The Arctic Ocean is the Earth’s smallest ocean. It is about 2.5 miles deep directly below the North Pole. It is covered in
a layer of sea ice (floating ocean water) that is about 6 to 9 feet thick. During winter, the area of sea ice more than doubles in size
because of the cold temperatures and lack of sunlight.
5) b. All points on Earth receive six months of sunlight and six months of darkness each year. But, rather than having days and
nights every day, the North and South Poles receive six months of darkness or light at a time. The sun sets on the autumn equinox, the first day of fall in the United States, and does not rise again until March 20 or 21, the first day of spring.