Animation showing Annual Variation of Sea Ice Extent in the Arctic
Compare Images of Arctic Sea Ice Extent Side-by-side
Activity: Graphing Sea Ice Extent in the Arctic and Antarctic
NOAA Arctic Ocean Explorer Photo and Video Log
The Arctic Ocean
If you traveled to the far north, the most northern place of Earth, you would find the Arctic Ocean there. It is Earth’s smallest ocean. At the edges of the Arctic Ocean are the northern parts of Europe, Asia, and North America.
The ocean water is so cold that ice forms at the top. The ice is called sea ice. More sea ice forms during the winter, when it is the coldest. In the summer, when it is warmer, much of the sea ice melts. Because our planet is getting warmer, the amount of sea ice that stays around all year long is shrinking. In fact, at some point in the next few decades there will be no more sea ice during summer in the Arctic Ocean.
Many animals live in the Arctic Ocean. Large mammals such as walruses and whales live there, and so do smaller animals like fish and invertebrates. Tiny marine plants called phytoplankton live there too. There are species of algae and small animals that live within the sea ice and small animals that live underneath the sea ice. There is still much that is not known about the organisms that live within and under the Arctic sea ice.