North Pole facts for kids
The North Pole is the point that is farthest north on the planet Earth. It is the point on which axis of Earth turns. It is in the Arctic Ocean and it's cold there because the Sun does not shine there for about half a year and never rises very high. The ocean around the pole is always very cold and it is covered by a thick sheet of ice.
There is a star, called the North Star or Polaris, that is always in the sky above the North Pole. People can tell how far north they are by seeing how high the North Star appears in the sky.
Day and night
The sun at the North Pole is continuously above the horizon during the summer and continuously below the horizon during the winter. Sunrise is just before the March equinox (around 20 March); the sun then takes three months to reach its highest point of near 23½° elevation at the summer solstice (around 21 June), after which time it begins to sink, reaching sunset just after the September equinox (around 23 September). When the sun is visible in the polar sky, it appears to move in a horizontal circle above the horizon. This circle gradually rises from near the horizon just after the vernal equinox to its maximum elevation (in degrees) above the horizon at summer solstice and then sinks back toward the horizon before sinking below it at the autumnal equinox. Hence the North and South Poles experience the slowest rates of sunrise and sunset on Earth.
The twilight period which occurs before sunrise and after sunset has three different definitions :
- a civil twilight period of about two weeks ;
- a nautical twilight period of about five weeks ;
- an astronomical twilight period of about seven weeks.
These effects are caused by a combination of the Earth's axial tilt and its revolution around the sun. The direction of the Earth's axial tilt, as well as its angle relative to the plane of the Earth's orbit around the sun, remains very nearly constant over the course of a year (both change very slowly over long time periods). At northern midsummer the North Pole is facing towards the sun to its maximum extent. As the year progresses and the Earth moves around the sun, the North Pole gradually turns away from the sun until at midwinter it is facing away from the Sun to its maximum extent. A similar sequence is observed at the South Pole, with a six-month time difference.
In most places on Earth, local time is determined by longitude, such that the time of day is more-or-less synchronised to the position of the sun in the sky (for example, at midday the sun is roughly at its highest). This line of reasoning fails at the North Pole, where the sun rises and sets only once per year, and all lines of longitude, and hence all time zones, converge. There is no permanent human presence at the North Pole and no particular time zone has been assigned. Polar expeditions may use any time zone that is convenient, such as Greenwich Mean Time, or the time zone of the country from which they departed.
The North Pole is substantially warmer than the South Pole because it lies at sea level in the middle of an ocean (which acts as a reservoir of heat), rather than at altitude on a continental land mass. Despite being an ice cap, it shares some characteristics with a tundra climate (ETf) due to the July and August temperatures peaking just above freezing.
Winter temperatures at the northernmost weather station in Greenland can range from about −50 to −13 °C (−58 to 9 °F), averaging around −31 °C (−24 °F), with the North Pole being slightly colder. However, a freak storm caused the temperature to reach 0.7 °C (33 °F) for a time at a World Meteorological Organization buoy, located at 87.45°N, on December 30, 2015. It was estimated that the temperature at the North Pole was between 30 and 35 °F (−1 and 2 °C) during the storm. Summer temperatures (June, July, and August) average around the freezing point (0 °C (32 °F)). The highest temperature yet recorded is 13 °C (55 °F), much warmer than the South Pole's record high of only −12.3 °C (9.9 °F). A similar spike in temperatures occurred on November 15, 2016 when temperatures hit freezing. Yet again, February 2018 featured a storm so powerful that temperatures at Cape Morris Jesup, the world's northernmost weather station in Greenland, reached 6.1 °C (43 °F) and spent 24 straight hours above freezing. Meanwhile, the pole itself was estimated to reach a high temperature of 1.6 °C (35 °F). This same temperature of 1.6 °C (35 °F) was also recorded at the Hollywood Burbank Airport in Los Angeles at the very same time.
The sea ice at the North Pole is typically around 2 to 3 m (6 ft 7 in to 9 ft 10 in) thick, although ice thickness, its spatial extent, and the fraction of open water within the ice pack can vary rapidly and profoundly in response to weather and climate.
Flora and fauna
Polar bears are believed to travel rarely beyond about 82° North owing to the scarcity of food, though tracks have been seen in the vicinity of the North Pole, and a 2006 expedition reported sighting a polar bear just 1 mi (1.6 km) from the Pole. The ringed seal has also been seen at the Pole, and Arctic foxes have been observed less than 60 km (37 mi) away at 89°40′ N.
Birds seen at or very near the Pole include the snow bunting, northern fulmar and black-legged kittiwake, though some bird sightings may be distorted by the tendency of birds to follow ships and expeditions.
Fish have been seen in the waters at the North Pole, but these are probably few in number. A member of the Russian team that descended to the North Pole seabed in August 2007 reported seeing no sea creatures living there. However, it was later reported that a sea anemone had been scooped up from the seabed mud by the Russian team and that video footage from the dive showed unidentified shrimps and amphipods.
Territorial claims to the North Pole and Arctic regions
Currently, under international law, no country owns the North Pole or the region of the Arctic Ocean surrounding it. The five surrounding Arctic countries, Russian Federation, Canada, Norway, Denmark (via Greenland), and the United States, are limited to a 200-nautical-mile (370 km; 230 mi) exclusive economic zone off their coasts, and the area beyond that is administered by the International Seabed Authority.
Upon ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, a country has 10 years to make claims to an extended continental shelf beyond its 200-mile exclusive economic zone. If validated, such a claim gives the claimant state rights to what may be on or beneath the sea bottom within the claimed zone. Norway (ratified the convention in 1996), Russia (ratified in 1997), Canada (ratified in 2003) and Denmark (ratified in 2004) have all launched projects to base claims that certain areas of Arctic continental shelves should be subject to their sole sovereign exploitation.
In 1907 Canada invoked a "sector principle" to claim sovereignty over a sector stretching from its coasts to the North Pole. This claim has not been relinquished, but was not consistently pressed until 2013.
Images for kids
Gerardus Mercator's map of the North Pole from 1595
North Pole Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.