The Arctic Region

Arctic Definitions

There is no unique definition outlining an “Arctic region”. In fact, the parameter or the highlighted characteristic chosen will outline different shapes, including or excluding some areas.
Map courtesy of Arctic Portal

Arctic Circle Parallel

The Arctic Circle includes the area north of the Arctic Circle at 66° 33’, that is the Southernmost latitude in the Northern Hemisphere at which the sun can continuously remain above or below the horizon for 24 hours.

As seen by the map above, the area so defined includes only the northernmost island of Iceland, Grímsey, most of Greenland, Nunavut and part of the Northern territories, the northernmost part of Alaska and Russia, and Lapland.

Tree Line

The tree line definition is derived from the northernmost border on which trees can grow.

10°C July Isotherm

The definition of 10°C July Isotherm refers to the area within which the average temperature in July never exceeds 10° C.

Arctic Human Development Report Boundary (AHDR)

The circumpolar area as defined in the AHDR includes all political or administrative entities overlapping the Arctic. Thus, the Arctic region encompasses all of Alaska, Canada North of 60°N along with northern Quebec and Labrador, all of Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and Iceland, and the northernmost counties of Norway, Sweden and Finland. The Arctic area in Russia encompasses the Murmansk Oblast, the Nenets, Yamalo-Nenets, Taimyr, and Chukotka autonomous okrugs, town of Vorkuta in the Komi Republic, Norilsk and Igarka in Krasnoyarsk Krai, and those parts of the Sakha Republic whose boundaries lie closest to the Arctic Circle.

The Arctic Council’s Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme Working Group Boundary (AMAP)

The AMAP Arctic definition incorporates elements of the Arctic Circle, political boundaries, vegetation boundaries, permafrost limits, and major oceanographic features. The region covered by AMAP is, therefore, essentially the terrestrial and marine areas north of the Arctic Circle (66°32'N), and north of 62°N in Asia and 60°N in North America, modified to include the marine areas north of the Aleutian chain, Hudson Bay, and parts of the North Atlantic Ocean including the Labrador Sea.

The AMAP boundary was established to provide a geographical context for the assessment, in particular source-related assessment issues, i.e., consideration of sources within and outside the Arctic. The relevance of the AMAP boundary varies when considering different issues, and it has therefore been applied accordingly. Thus, contaminant levels in biota are addressed in relation to the geographical occurrence of the species concerned; demographic data are discussed in relation to administrative regions on which, for example, census data are collected.

Search and Rescue & the Arctic Council´s Emergency, Prevention, Preparedness and Response Working Group (EPPR) Boundary

The "Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic” defines the “Scope of Application of this Agreement” in the Annex, outlying a different shape for the Arctic region.

The area is delimited by country through continuous lines connecting specific coordinates listed in the Annex itself.

Map courtesy of Arctic Portal

An Arctic Definition for Research in Iceland

As previously mentioned, there exists no formal definition of the Arctic region in the context of research in Iceland. However, the following working definition – originally developed within the Icelandic Joint Committee on Arctic Affairs - is often used as an important guideline:

“Icelandic Arctic issues involve research, monitoring, education, and public discourse that relate to both distinctive and common denominators of nature, culture, economy and history of the Arctic region in an international context”.