Principle #1: The Arctic and Antarctic Regions are unique because of their location on Earth.

An icon image of the Earth

1A: The Arctic and Antarctic are both cold environments but have different geographical features.

  • 1A-1: The Arctic is an ice-covered ocean surrounded by land.
  • 1A-2: Sea ice on Arctic Ocean averages ~2 meters thick.
  • 1A-3: Antarctica is an ice-covered continent (land) surrounded by the Southern Ocean.
  • 1A-4: Ice sheets on Antarctica average ~2-4 kilometers thick.
  • 1A-5:  Millions of years ago, Antarctica was more remote and less accessible to humans.

1B: Earth’s tilted axis affects polar seasons – summer and winter. During summer (Arctic – Jun, Jul, Aug; Antarctic – Dec, Jan, Feb) the sun does not set, and during winter (Arctic – Dec, Jan, Feb; Antarctic – Jun, Jul, Aug) the sun does not rise.

1C: The physical characteristics of the environment (weather, climate, topography, geology) are significantly different.

  • 1C-1: The air temperature in Antarctica is much colder than in the Arctic.
  • 1C-2: Temperature at the Poles is moderated by predominance of ocean versus land as well as elevation.  Most of the terrestrial portion of the Arctic, with the exception of Greenland, is at sea level, while Antarctica is averages ~ 2.5 kilometers above sea level in elevation.

1D: Polar climates create different living conditions.

  • 1D-1:  In the Arctic, terrestrial life is widespread in ecosystems such as tundra and ocean.  There are native human populations in the Arctic.
  • 1D-2:  In the Antarctic, terrestrial life is not widespread and is generally limited to the continental margin and the ocean. Vegetation is limited to mosses, liverworts, lichens and fungi that can survive extreme environments.  There are no native human populations in Antarctica.