The Arctic: The Importance Of The Arctic Ocean

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The Arctic, though it is also an ocean, is widely considered to be a geographical area that extends outwards from the North Pole to the Tree line (the imaginary line drawn on the map above which trees cannot grow due to the harsh climate). According to this definition, the Arctic includes both the Arctic Ocean as well as certain parts of the eight Arctic states. It covers an area of about 5.5 million square miles and is home to a plethora of animal species. Prior to the 20th Century, extreme weather conditions, harsh inaccessible environments and poor visibility had forced policymakers to relegate the Arctic to a region of near insignificance. However, with the rapid technological and industrial breakthroughs of the twentieth century, the geopolitical importance of the region rose. During the Cold War, the Arctic was the only frontier where the Soviets’ and the United States’ navies were directly facing each other off. With the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the opening of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) to international shipping, tensions similar to that of the Cold War era had receded in the Arctic. However, the region has been receiving international attention over the last decade. Melting ice caused by rising average global temperatures is unlocking access to the previously impervious region. In 2007, the National Snow and Ice Data Center in the United States reported that sea ice in the arctic was at its lowest levels since 1979 (New York Times, 2008). Experts

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