• The Earth’s polar regions are at the north of Canada, Greenland, Europe and
Russia and Antarctica. The polar regions are the regions that surround both
the poles, these regions are also known as frigid zones.
• Both of these regions are ﬂourishing with diﬀerent species of wildlife, and
both having their own unique specialities.
• Antarctica is the southernmost continent on the planet. It surrounds the
geographic South Pole and it is surrounded by the South-Paciﬁc and Indian
Oceans. It is the home to many diﬀerent species to wildlife. Some of the
marine species are, all species of penguin, blue whales, orca, colossal squid
and seal. There are also birds, such as the Snow Petrel, although there are no
• Antarctica has no indigenous population, that has been discovered, there is
no evidence that Antarctica was discovered until 1912, by Roald Amundsen
and his Norwegian polar crew.
• At 14 million km square it is the 5th largest continent on Earth, Antarctica is
around twice the size of Australia.
• About 98% of Antarctica is covered in ice, that is around 1.6 kilometres thick.
That covers all parts, except for the northernmost reaches of the Antarctic
• Antarctica is the coldest, driest and windiest continent, on average, and has
the highest elevation on average of all the continents. Antarctica is
considered a desert, it only gets an average rainfall of around 200mm along
the coast, and a whole lot less inland.
• The temperature in Antarctica has reached -89˚C. There is not a permanent
residence at Antarctica, although around 1000 to 2000 people live at the
research stations spread across the continent.
• The Arctic is a polar regions located at the Northernmost part of the Earth
(North Pole). The Arctic, space on Earth, consists of Canada, Russia, USA
(Alaska), Iceland, Greenland (Denmark), Norway, Sweden and Finland. The
Arctic circle is a immense area that is an ice coated ocean, surrounding the
North Pole and surrounded by a treeless permafrost.
• The warmest month, July, is under 10˚C. The northernmost
tree-line is around the isotherm at the boundary of the Arctic.
• The Arctic Tundra is the area of land that is in Russia, Canada, Alaska,
Iceland, Greenland, Norway, Sweden and Finland, in consists of many
species of ﬂora and fauna. These areas turn green (ice has melted) in the
summer, and that is when the varied species of animals are ﬂourishing.
• Polar bears, muskox, snowy owl, Arctic fox, caribou, lemming and the Arctic
hare are a few of the animal species found in the Arctic region. The seal,
walrus, the baleen whale, the killer whale, narwals and belugas are some of
the marine species.
• Arctic vegetation includes dwarf shrubs, herbs, lichen and mosses, which
grow relatively close to the ground, creating the tundra that grows in the
• Since 1937, the Arctic has been explored extensively by the Soviet and
Russian manned drifting ice stations. Between 1937 and 1991, 88 polar crews
from all across the Earth have established and occupied scientiﬁc research
facilities on the drift ice and carried thousands of kilometres from the ice ﬂoe.
• Atmospheric - Atmospheric processes are distinguished in physical and
chemical processes and both types may be operating simultaneously in
complicated and interdependent ways. The physical processes of transport by
atmospheric winds and the formation of clouds and precipitation strongly inﬂuence
the patterns and rates of acidic deposition, while chemical reactions govern the
forms of the compounds deposited.
• Biotic - Any process involving any living organisms, including bacteria.
• The Atmospheric processes that aﬀect the Polar Regions are usually the
circulation of gases. Clouds are also part of this circulation.
• Global Warming is also an Atmospheric process that
eﬀects the polar regions greatly, as it is melting the Polar
• The polar regions are brutally cold environments. All organisms that are in the
Polar Regions have to be able to adapt to survive in these severe conditions.
• Some of these animals have adapted extremely well compared to some
others. For example, the penguin, unique to the Southern Hemisphere, are
unable to ﬂy, but they are marvellous swimmers. Their feet are webbed, they
have very powerful “wings” for thrust and a rudder like tail. They are also
insulated by a layer of fat, similar to the walrus and seal.
Plants in Antarctica
• In Antarctica, most solid ground is under a thick layer of snow and ice.
However, there are few places where plants grow. There are bare, rocky areas
and valleys near the coast that are exempt from the ice and snow, that give
plants the opportunity to ﬂourish. These plants are, mosses, lichens, algae
and fungi. No tree’s or shrubs can survive in Antarctica.
• These plants survive strong coastal winds, extremely low temperatures and a
limited water supply, as most of the water has frozen and turned into ice.
Most of the mosses and the lichens grow extremely slowly; they only grow
about 15 millimetres every 100 years. Some lichens completely freeze in the
long, cold and dark winter. They then revive when there is some liquid,
although it is limited, during the Antarctic summer.
Plants in the Arctic
• The only actual landmass in the Arctic is in the Northernmost parts of the
countries surrounding the Arctic. As a result, the land in the Arctic has a short,
cool summer, with temperatures averaging, just above 0˚C.
• With the sun, rising and setting on the horizon the plants have a short but
rapid cycle of growth. Close to areas covered in permanent ice, mosses and
lichens grow on rocks, like Antarctica. Away from the permanent ice, grasses
and heaths can appear on the permafrost. In covered areas, small trees and
shrubs can survive. When all this combines, a tundra occurs.
• These frozen ecosystems are delicate. If disturbed by researchers, explorers
or anyone who goes, they may be permanently damaged, or only recover
over many, many years.
Animals in Antarctica
• The oceans enclosing Antarctica are the home to the southern polar wildlife.
There aren’t any discovered land based mammals or reptiles. Seals, penguins
and seabirds may breed and parent their young on land, but there only food
source is in the sea. The less cold Antarctic-Peninsula and the Antarctic
islands near the southernmost point of South Africa are ﬂooded with diﬀerent
species of wildlife.
Essential to the life of all animals in the Polar regions are phytoplankton and
krill. Phytoplankton grow on top of the water’s surface in the summer and
spring. Phytoplankton is also the food source for krill, a small
crustacean. Krill is the prominent food source for many species
of ﬁsh, seals, whales and birds.
Smaller penguins, such as the Adelie, are also the basis of
some animals diet, such as the leopard seal and orca.
Animals in the Arctic
• In the Arctic there areas at the Northernmost point, of the northernmost
countries that have a landmass that is included in the Arctic area that are not
covered in ice. Lichens, mosses and even shrubs and grasses let land animals of
the Arctic exist. These animals are caribou (reindeer), arctic fox and polar bear.
All these animals are limited to the Northern Hemisphere. Krill are also the base
of the food-chain in the Northern Hemisphere. Polar bears are found in Alaska,
Russia, Canada and Greenland. This species of bear have a thick fat layer and a
very dense coat of fur, these insulate the bear from the cold. When winds are
ferocious polar bears will dig out a shelter in the surface of the snow and curl
into a tight ball to protect them from the extremely cold winds.
One of the main food sources for the bears are seals. These are hunted from the
edge of the ice, which drops of into the sea. The bears wait until the seal comes
up for air, then the seal is quickly snagged and killed. In recent years, the number
of these bears have quickly decreased. The eﬀects of pollution and global
warming are believed to be responsible for the reduction of the number of polar
• Living in Antarctica or the Arctic would be an amazing experience, and people
do live at the South pole and in the Northernmost countries, at the
northernmost sections. Although the population is small and almost every
citizen only stays for a short amount of time. In winter, between 25-60 people
may be found at the South Pole,while in the summer and spring months,
there are as many as 125-150 people will be staying at Antarctica. These
people are mostly astrophysicists, geophysicists, meteorologists,
glaciologists and researchers in biomedicine. There are also doctors, cooks
and electricians to keep everything, up and running.
• Life in a Polar Region has is diﬃculties, many of these are caused by the
relentless weather conditions and the savage physical environment, the
isolation also does not help.
• The new comers suﬀer from altitude sickness, because Antarctica is around
2900 metres above sea level, the highest continent, on average, in the world.
They suﬀer because the oxygen levels are not as rich as lower altitudes,
although the doctors have oxygen supplies at the establishments medical
• In summer the sun rays become extra bright, as they reﬂect oﬀ the snow and
ice. These intense beams can cause temporary blindness and eye irritation if
there are no precautions taken.
• In winter, temperatures can reach -78˚C, and the few people that are left all
move into a central place to work and live. Many kinds of the machinery
usually freeze during the winter months. During the winter there is no sunlight,
this proves very useful for the astronomers, although it is very diﬃcult for a
number of the residents.
• The isolation at the South pole does not help with any kind of issue. All
supplies, including food, medicines, fuel and building equipment, has to
airlifted into this continent, which usually occurs during the summer. The
station has a small greenhouse that grows vegetables and herbs for the
• As virtually all non-human life exists next to the oceans
these researchers do not have to really deal with any
kind of other life at the South Pole.
• There are many threats that terrorise the polar regions. Some threaten the
biodiversity, some threaten the polar regions themselves. One threat that puts
the biodiversity of the polar regions at risk, is whaling. The hunting of whales
began in the 1700’s. Humans began to hunt whales for food and money,
selling the meat. In the 1920’s killing whales became recognised as
damaging, as the number of the death of whales rose from 14 000 to
40 000.Overﬁshing is also a threat to the biodiversity of the polar regions, as it
is killing oﬀ many of the oceanic species of animals in the polar lands.
• Pollution is also a major threat to polar regions, as it started global warming,
which slowly melting the polar regions away. Pollution reaches the Polar
Regions by massive tankers going across the oceans near the polar regions.
• Polar Regions are where climate change is having the most visible and
signiﬁcant impacts. Sea ice and freshwater glaciers are melting, the
permafrost is proceeding to thaw and releasing a large amount of
Greenhouse gases, making it diﬃcult for the animals to adapt to the changing
• The ice is constantly melting causing the animals to lose their ground and
territory, destroying the homes to many of the polar species of animals and
• People are protecting the polar regions by protesting against whaling, and
pollution. Groups such as Greenpeace are probably giving the best ﬁght for
the environment, and keeping it going.
• Around May - August every year, Antarctica experiences a whole 24-hours of
darkness, while the Arctic has 24-hours of complete sunlight. Although in
November - February Antarctica deals with 24-hours of total daylight, as the
Arctic experiences 24-hours of whole darkness.
• Precipitation, in these areas, falls as snow and not rain. Over many thousands
of years snow and ice has built vast ice sheets that covers Antarctica,
reaching over 4 kilometres thick.
• These areas are so cold that in the Arctic circle most of the land is actually
just massive ice sheets, the only actual land in the Arctic area is the north
Greenland, Russia, Canada and Europe, although that this massive layer of
ice sheet is also regarded as part of the polar land.
• Throughout the far north of the Northern-Hemisphere the land is actually
frozen. Especially in Canada and Russia, the depths of permafrost reaches up
to 600 metres. The ground temperatures above these depths are continuously
below 0˚C. Although, in the summer there is a very thin layer of this
permafrost may melt.
• In very few places, in all polar regions, some plants may grow, such as low
shrubs, grasses and herbs may survive, sometimes even ﬂowering in the
summer, very brieﬂy. This is also known as a tundra.
• Since polar regions have so much snow we would easily believe that they are
very wet places, but they are indeed very cold deserts. Although they have a
thick layer of ice that covers a high amount of Antarctica and section of the
Arctic, the polar regions have a very low amount of annual precipitation, as
low as the Sahara desert in Africa.
• The polar regions have very cold winds that carry little moisture. The very cold
air in all polar regions means that all of the precipitation that reaches the land,
is very unlikely to evaporate. As a result of this the snow fall gets compressed
and then turns into ice. Away from the poles the wind, and all weather
conditions, can be very ﬁerce. A mix of snow and powerful winds, with
speeds of over 100 kilometres per hour, can last many days and lead to
complete ‘white outs’ of the landscape.
When these high speed winds appear
they stir up snow, creating the illusion of
an everlasting snowfall.
• Their are many research facilities that study the polar regions of the Earth, but
only one will be explained here. The Amundsen-Scott research facility is in
Antarctica, that has turned into a sort of village that has around 25-50
inhabitants within the Winter part of the year, due to the 24-hour darkness.
Although through summer and spring there are around 150-200 people living
at this facility. A number of these people are researchers in astrophysics,
geophysics, meteorology, glaciology and biomedicine. the population also
consists of doctors, cooks and electricians.
Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station
• The Amundsen-Scott South Pole station is the southernmost habitation in the
world. It is named after the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen who was
the leader of the ﬁrst expedition to the South Pole in December 1911, and
Robert F Scott whose British expedition arrived weeks later to be placed 2nd
in the race to be the ﬁrst country to put a man in Antarctica.
• This station was built in 1957-1958 and was on a moving glacier, moving
about 10 metres per year, and around 100m from geographical South Pole.
The result of this is that the USA has had to relocate and construct new
buildings many times. The station was deserted in 1975, then becoming
deeply buried and the pressure caused most of the ceilings on the buildings
collapsed. It was demolished in 2010, after a piece of testing equipment fell
through the structure completing snow stability tests.