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If you had to pick an ocean to swim, you would not pick the Arctic, right? That’s because it’s the coldest ocean on Earth, and only the species adapted to its temperature are capable of living there.
 This body of water is the smallest and shallowest of the oceans, and it is in the northern hemisphere. Still, it is 1.5 times larger than the United States. The world “Arctic” comes from the name of the constellation Arktos, which in Greek means “bear.”

Regardless its unbearable cold temperatures, this territory has been inhabited for about 20,000 years by the Inuit and the Yupik, who have physical and physiological adaptations to living in these extreme conditions.

This ocean has an area of approximately 15,558,000 square kilometers and a total of 45,389 kilometers of coastline. It covers about 3.17 percent of Earth’s surface. Its waters touch the northern regions of Alaska, Canada, Norway, Iceland, Russia, and Greenland, and it surrounds several islands. Its area includes Baffin Bay, Barents Sea, the Beaufort Sea, the Chukchi Sea, the Greenland Sea, Hudson Bay, the Kara Sea, the Laptev Sea, the White Sea, Hudson Strait, the Siberia Sea and others. It connects to the Pacific Ocean through the Bering Strait and the Atlantic Ocean through the Greenland Sea and the Labrador Sea. Its southern boundary is the Arctic Circle, at parallel 66°33′ north.

In the Arctic, massive ice sheets of two or three meters thick float around freely, continually shifting due to winds and ocean currents. If these ice chunks collide, they form irregular lines of ice, known as pressure ridges, which can be three times as thick as the individual pieces.

In winter, the temperature fluctuates between -50°C and -1.1°C.

Properties of the Arctic Ocean.

During the summer, the ice caps are surrounded by the ocean, but in the winter they double in size. The Arctic climate is described as polar, characterized by a perennial cold. The islands have a permafrost layer, in other words, a layer of ice on the soil’s surface. Other land regions like Alaska have a tundra biome.

In the winter, the sun is conspicuously absent, the sky is clear, and weather conditions are stable, but summer has permanent sun and humid environments, occasionally pounded by cyclones and snowstorms. In winter, the temperature fluctuates between -50°C and -1.1°C and in summer, the temperature can be up to 10°C. This ocean has the lowest salinity of any ocean due to low evaporation rates and freshwater inflows.

Properties of the Arctic Ocean

The ocean floor has three main underwater ridges:


1. The Nansen-Gakkel ridge, which extends north of western Russia
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2. The Alfa mountain ridge, a plane range with peaks of about 3,000 meters.

3. The Lomonosov Ridge, a mountain range between 3,000 to 3,700 meters high.

It is also divided into three large bodies of water, depending on the depth:

1. Arctic Deep Water, the deepest part, beginning at about 900 meters below the surface

2. Atlantic Water, found between 150-900 meters deep and having the same level of salinity as the Arctic Deep Water but warmer.

3. Arctic Surface Water, above 150-200 meters deep and is a subsurface layer with swift currents.

Economic Importance of the Arctic Ocean
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The cold conditions do not deter the proliferation of several species there. Narwhals, walruses, belugas, seals, bowhead whales, and Lion’s Mane Jellyfishes, which grow up 2.4 meters long, inhabit the waters of this ocean. Plankton, algae, various fish species, and polar bears also live in this environment.

In the ground, there are vast deposits of oil, natural gas, and metals, which are essential resources for various countries. Its waters are navigable taking the proper care to avoid icebergs; between March and April, ice covers a large part of the ocean. This challenge has become more important as some tests indicate that it could hold more than 25 percent of the undiscovered deposits of oil and gas.

This ocean is also a maritime link between the east and western Russia and North America. However, the center of this ocean is disputed between Norway, Denmark, United States, Canada, and Russia.

Economic Importance of the Arctic Ocean.

Conservation of the Arctic Ocean.

This ocean is evidently affected by climate change as due to the rising of global temperatures, the ice layer gradually thins. The thaw could cause serious flooding in the future, burying some countries under water, pollute some territories because its high concentration of radioactive contaminants, and alter the direction of ocean currents which could cause severe weather disruptions.

Along with the above, animal species would also be affected. Some researchers think that by the year 2040, the Arctic could be entirely melted because the ice pack of this ocean shrinks by eight percent each year.

 

Quick Facts.

– It is the smallest ocean.
– The Arctic Ocean is the only home of polar bears.
– Its deepest point is the Fram Basin, which has a depth of 4,665 meters.
– It is five times larger than the Mediterranean Sea.
– During summer, its ice shrinks by 50 percent.

Blizzard

 

By definition, a blizzard is an extended, severe snowstorm. In order to qualify as a blizzard, winds have to be at least 35mph and rage for a longer period of time—at least three hours or more. The amount of snowfall has little to do with a storm qualifying as a snowstorm, but rather the intensity of the wind and length of time. There are two other classifications for blizzards:

–Severe blizzard: winds over 45mph, temperatures at 10 Fahrenheit or lower, near zero visibility.

–Ground blizzard: no falling snow, snow from the ground is blown by the strong winds.

A nor’easter gets it’s name from the direction of the oncoming winds. This occurs on the Atlantic side of Canada and East Coast of the USA. These storms can start as far south as the Gulf of Mexico or the North Atlantic Ocean. However, the most common usage of the name is in the coastal regions of Atlantic Canada and New England. These storms are similar to a hurricane. One of the deadliest blizzards in the USA—the Great Blizzard of 1888—was a nor’easter, killing 400 people after dumping 40-50 inches of snow.

What causes blizzards?

Blizzards are usually formed when the jet stream pitches very far south. This allows the cold air that comes from the north to collide with warm air coming from the south. This creates a strong storm system, usually developing on the northwest side of such storm systems.

Any area which is mostly flat is susceptible to blizzards, though there are some areas in the US, Australia, and the UK that suffer from blizzards more than others. However, the deadliest blizzard in recorded history occurred in Iran in 1972.

Dangers of blizzards

Blizzards are one of nature’s deadlier storms, as the conditions make travel and movement hazardous. Snowstorms disrupt traffic, but blizzards make any kind of travel nearly impossible. Almost every blizzard results in at least a few deaths, with some of the bigger ones resulting in hundreds of people dying.

Visibility is drastically reduced, in some cases to as little as 3 meters or what is called zero visibility.  In a ground blizzard, though no new snow is falling, the snow already on the ground is whipped up and around by the winds to where visibility is also close to zero.

Travel under these conditions is close to impossible. Cars have to come to a complete standstill as they can drive off the road. Because blizzards rage for so long, people can get trapped in their cars, freezing to death as they wait for it to clear. Once the storm is over, cars are often buried under mounds of snow, making it difficult for rescue teams to find them. Hypothermia sets in as people trapped outdoors try to find shelter and warmth.

Blizzards have been known to come suddenly and while it is possible to be warned in advance, it’s not always possible to be entirely prepared for the intensity of the blizzard. Clearing roads is not possible until after the blizzard has passed and then takes a long time due to the intensity of the build up. The aftermath of the blizzard can be almost as dangerous as the storm itself, as people trapped inside vehicles, unheated buildings, or outdoors take longer to be found and brought to warmth and safety.

blizzard facts and information
Snow covered car

History of blizzards

Though not as common as snowstorms, tornadoes, or even hurricanes, blizzards are deadly every time they hit. Not all blizzards are mentioned here, not even all of the most severe. This is just a sample of the havoc that blizzards can wreak.

–The white winter of 1880-1881 is one of the earliest blizzards mentioned in history books. This is considered the worst winter in US history. Because the first blizzard hit in October, before most farmers had the opportunity to bring in their crops. One after the other the blizzards continued to hit, making travel impossible, even by train. People were at the brink of starvation and train services stopped completely by January 1880 as no matter how often they cleared the tracks, another storm would come and cover them again. The snow never thawed and on February 2, 1881 a nine day blizzard hit again. By then, towns and farmers had to tunnel through the snow to get to livestock, wood for heating, and supplies.  Once the snow started melting, huge areas were flooded, washing away huge areas around the Missouri river. The town of Yankton, currently South Dakota, was nearly completely washed away by the overflowing river.

–The Iran Blizzard of 1972 is the deadliest recorded blizzard. Starting on February 3, until February 9, more than 10 feet of snow fell, the worst areas in Southern Iran getting up to 26 feet of snow. Whole villages died, one being completely buried beneath the snow. Approximately 4000 people died.

–The Armistice Day Blizzard in 1947 came somewhat unexpected, resulting in a lot of deaths. On the morning of the blizzard, the weather was warm, resulting in many hunters going out to take advantage of ideal conditions. Within a few hours, the blizzard hit, raging through the night and into the next day. 145 deaths were reported as a result of the 1,000 mile wide storm. Many hunters were not dressed warmly enough to withstand the wind and snow. Many were stranded on islands in the Mississippi, or drowned trying to get back to land.

–The Schoolhouse Blizzard in 1888 is different from the nor’easter and in some ways more heart breaking. Because the day started out relatively fair, people went about their lives, with children going to school and adults going to work. The storm hit early in the day, leaving thousands stranded; mostly children in their one-room schoolhouses. 235 people died; including children.

Although meteorologists are now able to more accurately predict blizzards, the storms still have the ability to cripple whole cities at a time, and deaths are almost always inevitable. Over the years, rescue missions during and after blizzards are becoming better and preparedness goes a long way towards preventing large amounts of casualties. It has also become considerably easier to notify people of oncoming storms, with more reliable predictions and getting the word out quickly and effectively.

Countries which are not used to large amounts of snow, extreme cold, and long periods of strong winds tend to have a harder time coping when the storms hit. Regardless of where the blizzards hit, there is never a way to be completely prepared. There is always a chance of power outages, communications systems breaking down, people going for long periods with little or no heat, and getting trapped outdoors or in a vehicle. During winter months, people are advised to pay close attention to weather warning coming over the radio or TV. There are weather websites set up to help people prepare for blizzards and post warnings when a snowstorm is being upgraded to a blizzard.

 

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