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Arctic Tundra Climate

Arctic Tundra Climate

One of the most uninhabitable regions in the world, the Arctic biome covers a major portion of the continents above North 60° latitude. This ScienceStruck article provides you with extensive information about some facts related to the climate of this biome.
Ishani Chatterjee Shukla
Extremely Chilling Fact
The lowest temperature measured in the Arctic regions was -90.4°F in both Verkhoyansk and Oymyakon in 1885 and 1933, respectively. Both the places are inhabited, and the temperature was measured at the ground level using thermometers.


A tundra is a type of biome, which is characterized by extremely low temperatures, often going below freezing point (especially during the winter months). It consists of sparse vegetation with most botanical life forms experiencing spurts of growth and reproduction during short summers, which are just about warm enough to melt the ice, and allow plants to grow and seeds to germinate. The environment is extremely dry with little atmospheric moisture being present, and the soil remains permanently frozen for a major part of the year. At present, there are three main geographical regions that are categorized under the tundra biome - Arctic tundra, Antarctic tundra, and Alpine tundra.
Arctic Tundra Biome Climatic Conditions
Vegetation
The climate of the Arctic tundra remains very low for a significant part of the year with the mercury dipping below freezing point during the winter months. Vegetation is sparse, and much of the soil from the surface to as deep as 70 centimeters remains frozen all over the year. The only vegetation that survives such harsh climate and forms the native flora of the Arctic tundra region include moss and lichen.
Temperature Changes
In line with its climatic conditions, the seasonal and diurnal cycles also tend to inch towards extremes. There are only two seasons in the Arctic tundra: summer and winter. The sun shines 24/7 during the short summer months, while the night extends to about a month during the long and dark winter months. Temperatures can go as low as -58°F during winters, though on an average, the range hovers somewhere between -4°F to -22°F. Lowest temperatures ever recorded in Siberia have been around -90°F. The highest recorded temperature during the fleeting summers have never gone beyond 59°F and tend to hover between 38°F and 55°F on an average.
Areas Covered
According to the development of storms, the tundra regions are divided into two areas―one is known as the Icelandic Low and other one is known as the Aleutian Low. The former category covers the Arctic Ocean, central portion of Canada, Europe, and Northern portions of the Atlantic Ocean. The latter encompasses Siberia (mainly eastern regions), Alaska (the Gulf area), and Northern parts of Canada. Fierce storms develop in these regions, as during winter season, the atmospheric pressure is low, as compared to the surrounding Taiga areas. The climate of Arctic Tundra regions can be included under the popular Köppen Climate Classification, wherein they are denoted as ET.
Weather Changes
Arctic tundra is characterized by howling blizzards occurring almost every day during the winters. Annual precipitation is never more than 10 centimeters on an average. The slight warmth of the summer may melt the surface ice to expose soggy and slimy soil for the brief summer period. The ground surface is mainly wet as it takes a long time for the moisture to evaporate. During this season, the tundra may be marked with shallow bogs and marshes as the climate is characterized by presence of rain and fog. However, deeper recesses of the Earth's crust remain frozen, and hence, water formed from the melting of surface ice cannot seep much deeper.

Permafrost: These are frozen masses of permanent ice and snow that are present in the regions wherein many layers of ice accumulate for centuries, several meters in thickness. These layers never melt significantly in the summer seasons, and whatever melting takes place forms shallow lakes and marshlands. Major examples are Russia and Canada, and a few areas of Alaska.

Overall Effect: The extreme climate and weather conditions have prohibited the establishment of industries in the remote interior parts. Hence, even if these regions are rich in mineral deposits like iron and uranium, unfavorable temperatures have led to very less exploitation of mineral and petroleum resources.
The recent climate changes that are taking place owing to global warming and ozone layer depletion pose a major threat to the biosphere of the Arctic regions, as well as the rest of the world. The foremost concern is the possibility of the melting of polar ice due to the steady rise in global warming. Another concern regarding the release of soil-bound carbon into the Earth's atmosphere as a result of melting permafrost continues to haunt the entire human race. Alaska is a popular example of such a carbon sink converted to carbon source phenomenon.
Deserted winter landscape Arctic tundra
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