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Polar lands

  1. Polar Regions
  2. Introduction • 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.
  3. Antarctica • 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 land animals. • 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.
  4. Antarctica • 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 Peninsula. • 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.
  5. Arctic • 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.
  6. Arctic • 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 summer. • 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.
  7. Processes • 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.
  8. Atmospheric Process • 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 Regions.
  9. Biotic Process • 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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 bears.
  14. Interaction • 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.
  15. Interaction • 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 centres. • 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.
  16. Interaction • 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 kitchens. • 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.
  17. Threats • 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.
  18. Global Warming • 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 surroundings. • 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 plants.
  19. Protection • 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.
  20. Climate • 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.
  21. Climate • 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.
  22. Climate • 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.
  23. Research Facilities • 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.
  24. 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.
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