Arctic Ocean or Arctic Seas

Norway, Spitsbergen, Drift Ice in the Arctic Ocean
S.-E. Arndt/Picture Press/Getty Images

The Arctic Ocean is the smallest of the world's five oceans with an area of 5,427,000 square miles (14,056,000 sq km). It has an average depth of 3,953 feet (1,205 m) and its deepest point is the Fram Basin at -15,305 feet (-4,665 m). The Arctic Ocean is between Europe, Asia, and North America. In addition, most of its waters of the Arctic Ocean are north of the Arctic Circle. The Geographic North Pole is at the center of the Arctic Ocean. While the South Pole is on a landmass the North Pole is not but the area that it inhabits is usually made up of ice. Throughout most of the year, much of the Arctic Ocean is covered by a drifting polar icepack that is an average of ten feet (three meters) thick. This icepack normally melts during the summer months, which is being extended due to climate change.

Ocean or Sea

Due to its size, many oceanographers do not consider the Arctic Ocean to be an ocean at all. Instead, some think it is a Mediterranean sea, which is a sea that is mostly enclosed by land. Other's believe it to be an estuary, a partially enclosed coastal body of water, of the Atlantic Ocean. These theories are not widely held. The International Hydrographic Organization does consider the Arctic to be one of the world's seven oceans. While they are located in Monaco, the IHO is an intergovernmental organization representing hydrography, the science of measuring the ocean.

Does the Arctic Ocean have seas?

Yes, even though it's the smallest ocean the Arctic does have its own seas. The Arctic Ocean is similar to the world's other oceans because it shares borders with both continents and marginal seas which are also known as Mediterranean seas. The Arctic Ocean shares borders with five marginal seas. The following is a list of those seas arranged by area.

The Arctic Seas

  1. Barents Sea, Area: 542,473 square miles (1,405,000 sq km)
  2. Kara Sea, Area: 339,770 square miles (880,000 sq km)
  3. Laptev Sea, Area: 276,000 square miles (714,837 sq km)
  4. Chukchi Sea, Area: 224,711 square miles (582,000 sq km)
  5. Beaufort Sea, Area: 183,784 square miles (476,000 sq km)
  6. Wandel Sea, Area: 22,007 square miles (57,000 sq km)
  7. Lincon Sea, Area: Unknown

Exploring The Arctic Ocean

Recent developments in technology are allowing scientists to study the depths of the Arctic Ocean in brand new ways. This study is important to help scientists study the catastrophic effects of climate change on the area. Mapping the Arctic Ocean floor could even lead to new discoveries like trenches or sandbars. They may also discover new species of lifeforms found only at the top of the world. It is truly an exciting time to be an oceanographer or a hydrographer. Scientists are able to explore this treacherous frozen part of the world in-depth for the first time in human history. How exciting!

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Briney, Amanda. "Arctic Ocean or Arctic Seas." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Briney, Amanda. (2020, August 27). Arctic Ocean or Arctic Seas. Retrieved from Briney, Amanda. "Arctic Ocean or Arctic Seas." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 26, 2023).