Shop Windows to the Universe

With Explore the Planets, investigate the planets, their moons, and understand the processes that shape them. By G. Jeffrey Taylor, Ph.D. See our DVD collection.
Sunset over sea ice off the coast of Antarctica captured from the Nathaniel B. Palmer, an NSF research icebreaker ship, during an Antarctic oceanography research cruise.
Click on image for full size
NOAA Corp Collection, Photographer Michael Van Woert

Polar Oceans

The oceans that are in the polar regions are a bit different from other oceans on Earth. There is often sea ice at the surface, especially during the winter months. And those chilly waters are home to some unique marine life.

There are two oceans in Earth's polar regions.

Seawater from polar regions can be denser than seawater from other places. It is denser because it is cold. It can also become saltier than other seawater and that makes it denser too. The denser seawater sinks to the bottom of the ocean. It travels out of the polar regions in slow currents that travel around the bottom of the world’s oceans.

The polar oceans are warming up as Earth’s climate changes. Scientists are studying how the polar oceans, the sea ice at their surface, and the marine life within them, are changing because the Earth is getting warmer. They have found that sea ice in the Arctic Ocean is melting. Polar bears and other species rely on the sea ice, so they might be in trouble as sea ice melts. In the Antarctic, scientists are trying to figure out if penguins will be affected as sea ice melts there.

Last modified June 18, 2007 by Lisa Gardiner.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Cool It! is the new card game from the Union of Concerned Scientists that teaches kids about the choices we have when it comes to climate change—and how policy and technology decisions made today will matter. Cool It! is available in our online store.

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

Sea Ice in the Arctic and Antarctic

Sea ice is frozen seawater. It floats on the oceans that are in Earth's polar regions. The salt in the seawater does not freeze. Very salty water gets trapped in the sea ice when it forms. The pockets...more

The Arctic: Earth's North Polar Region

In the Arctic, you will find the Arctic Ocean surrounded by the continents of Europe, Asia, and North America. You will find the geographic North Pole and the magnetic North Pole there; both are in the...more

The Southern Ocean

The Southern Ocean is sometimes known as the Antarctic Ocean or South Polar Ocean. It surrounds Antarctica in the South Polar Region. The Southern Ocean is a bit different from other oceans. Other oceans...more

The Antarctic Region

What Will You Find There? If you travel to the South Pole, you will find the continent of Antarctica surrounded by the Southern Ocean. The geographic South Pole is marked by a large sign that scientists...more

Polar Bears on Thin Ice

Polar bears live in one of our planet’s most extreme environments, the Arctic . They thrive in the freezing cold. But because of global warming, polar bears might be in trouble. Scientists are studying...more

Exploring the Poles

Polar exploration includes the exploration of the Arctic and the Antarctic. The Arctic is the area around the Earth's north pole. Antarctica is a continent that surrounds the South Pole. When you think...more

Content for Climate Change Education Courses

Looking for online content that can be used for a climate change education course or module? Pages linked below can be used to support an introductory climate change education for either a unit or a full...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA