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Geography of Polar Regions - Windows to the Universe

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Earth's Arctic and Antarctic Regions showing location of the Arctic and Antarctic Circles and the geographic North and South Poles.
Original Windows to the Universe artwork by Lisa Gardiner using images from NASA.

Where Are the Polar Regions?

The Polar Regions are the areas that are near Earth's North and South Poles.

  • The area near the North Pole is called the Arctic. Most of the Arctic is ocean water with ice on it. The ocean is called the Arctic Ocean. There is also some land in the Arctic including the northern parts of Europe, Asia, and North America.
  • The area near the South Pole is called the Antarctic. Most of the Antarctic is land, not ocean. The land is the continent of Antarctica. There is an ocean around Antarctica called the Southern Ocean.

Day and Night
If you live in a place that is far from the equator, you may have noticed that during winter there are fewer hours of daylight each day than in summer. During summer you might have found that the Sun does not set until after you eat dinner. During winter you might have found that the Sun sets before you eat dinner. This is because of the tilt of Earth’s axis. Earth's tilt is the reason for the seasons. The closer you are to one of the Poles, the less daylight there is during winter days.

Right at the Poles, the Sun shines for the entire summer and it is dark for the entire winter. This makes a year like one long day! The Sun rises in spring, reaches its highest point in the sky in summer, and sets in autumn. So the Sun is only in the sky during the warmer months of the year. When the Sun is in the sky at the South Pole, it is the dark winter months at the North Pole.

Last modified April 29, 2008 by Becca Hatheway.

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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