Shop Windows to the Universe

Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather by Mike Smith tells the story of our storm warning system. See our online store book collection.
Here a German researcher is fixing an instrument called a pyranometer (in the tube). He is trying to collect weather data while on an Arctic ice floe. A pyranometer measures solar radiation.
Figure from the NSIDC Arctic Climatology and Meteorology Primer

Arctic Weather

The Arctic or the Earth's Northern Polar Region is the land and ocean above 66.5 degrees latitude. As you can imagine, being that far north in latitude has certain implications on Arctic weather!

Ok, so you know the Arctic is cold, right? But did you know that minimum temperatures of -90Fahrenheit (-68 Celsius) can be reached in Greenland and northern Siberia during winter months? The average Arctic winter temperature is -30 F (-34C), while the average Arctic summer temperature is 37-54 F (3-12 C). In general, Arctic winters are long and cold while summers are short and cool. Some places in the Arctic are actually warmer then you might expect based on their latitude alone. Land areas near the coast may be warmer because of the warm ocean currents.

Much of the Arctic sky is generally covered with low stratus and stratocumulus clouds. When the area begins to warm up in Spring like in May-June, then cloudiness increases. The least amount of cloud cover is experienced in December-January.

Arctic locations don't receive much precipitation. What they do receive is generally snow during Fall and in Spring. They generally receive less than 10 inches of precipitation a year. This means they can be officially classified as a dessert!

The Arctic can also be windy! With little in the way to slow them, winds can sweep over huge areas of land depositing loads of snow when a landform or obstacle is reached. The summer months in the Arctic are actually the windiest.

Because of the low temperatures in the Arctic, low moisture content is usually found there. The colder the air, the less moisture it can hold. Air over land is significantly colder and dryer then air over the Arctic seas. A typical humidity of air over a land surface might be 50% relative humidity.

Last modified June 28, 2007 by Jennifer Bergman.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

The Winter 2009 issue of The Earth Scientist, focuses on Earth System science, including articles on student inquiry, differentiated instruction, geomorphic concepts, the rock cycle, and much more!

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

The Arctic: Earth's North Polar Region

North of the Arctic Circle (at 66.5N latitude) you will find the Arctic Ocean surrounded by the northernmost parts of the continents of Europe, Asia, and North America. You will find the geographic North...more

Low Clouds

The low cloud group consists of Stratus, Stratocumulus, and Nimbostratus clouds. Low clouds consist of water droplets. The base of a low cloud is from the surface to 2000m....more

Wind

Wind is moving air. Warm air rises, and cool air comes in to take its place. This movement creates different pressures in the atmosphere which creates the winds around the globe. Since the Earth spins,...more

The Polar Atmosphere

Phenomena in the Polar Atmosphere There are some unique phenomena that happen in the atmosphere that is above the Earth's polar regions. Read on to discover more about some of the unique parts of the polar...more

Exploration of the Poles of the Earth

Polar exploration includes the physical exploration of the Arctic and the Antarctica. The Arctic is the area around the Earth's north pole and includes parts of Canada, Greenland, Russia, the United States...more

The Antarctic Region

What Will You Find There? South of the Antarctic Circle (at 66.5S latitude) you will find the continent of Antarctica surrounded by the Southern Ocean, the geographic South Pole and the magnetic South...more

Antarctica

Antarctica is unique. It is the coldest, windiest, and driest continent on Earth. The land is barren and mostly covered with a thick sheet of ice. Antarctica is almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF