Antarctic vs Arctic Comparison Guide

Arctic (North):

  • a_a_resources_arcticA vast ocean surrounded by land inhabited by people for thousands of years. Home to four-million current human residents.
  • Includes parts of the United States, Canada, Russia, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Greenland (Denmark), and Iceland.
  • Home to polar bears, wolves, foxes, caribou, lemmings, wolverines, muskoxen, and other land mammals.
  • Summer home for several hundred million birds that migrate there to feed and breed. The Arctic, however, has no flightless birds. That’s right; there are no penguins in the Arctic!
  • The top layer of permafrost soil thaws every summer, giving rise to flowering plants, berries, and insects. Some Arctic areas even have trees.

Climate Change concerns

Melting permafrost can release large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere; reduced sea ice cover will reflect less incoming solar radiation, letting the dark underlying ocean waters absorb more heat; changes in ocean water salinity, temperature and ice cover could disrupt global ocean circulation; melting ice sheets and glaciers contribute to global sea-level rise.

Antarctica (South):

  • a_a_resources_antarcticA vast continent surrounded by ocean.
  • No evidence of prehistoric human populations.Not “discovered” until 1820s. No permanent human residents.
  • Owned by no nation. Forty-six nations have signed the Antarctic Treaty, setting Antarctica aside as a scientific preserve and banning military activity on the continent.
  • No land mammals. That’s right; there are no polar bears in Antarctica!
  • Millions of sea birds feed and breed during the Antarctic summer. The birds that call Antarctica home are all sea birds, however, because in contrast to the Arctic, there is no tundra and few insects to feed and house non-sea birds.
  • The Antarctic continent is mostly ice-covered rock. There is very little fertile soil, only a few species of plants that grow only along the coast of the peninsula, and not many insects. There are no shrubs or trees.

Climate Change concerns

Ice sheets and glaciers in Western Antarctica and on the Antarctic Peninsula could slip into the ocean, causing a global sea-level rise of up to eighty feet. Cold water and ocean currents make Antarctic waters the most biologically productive in the world, providing food that sustains the world’s ocean life. Changes in sea temperature, currents and ice cover could decrease the richness of Antarctic waters.


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