The North Pole is located in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. It marks the northernmost point on Earth and is situated on the axis on which our planet spins. The North Pole has extreme cold temperatures year-round and 24-hours of daylight at least once annually.

Geographic Location

The North Pole’s coordinates are 90°N latitude. It does not have a specific longitude because all lines of longitude meet at the poles.

The pole sits amidst the Arctic Ocean, which surrounds the northern fringes of North America, Europe, and Asia. The Arctic landmasses closest to the North Pole are northern Greenland and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago islands.

Topography and Geology

The North Pole region is covered entirely by drifting sea ice floating on top of the Arctic Ocean. The depth of the ocean at the pole is over 4,000 meters (13,000 feet).

Underneath the floating ice cap, the Arctic Ocean floor is divided by underwater ridges into major basins. The floor comprises part of the continental shelves of the surrounding continents.

The Lomonosov Ridge runs directly under the pole from Siberia to Greenland. This underwater mountain ridge separates the Eurasian and Amerasian basins.

Climate and Weather

Climate and Weather  North Pole

The North Pole has an ice cap climate, also known as a tundra climate. This is the harshest cold climate type found on Earth. Temperatures average around -40°F (-40°C) year-round.

In winter, the North Pole region is continuously dark. Temperatures frequently plunge below -58°F (-50°C) with the lowest temperature recorded being -102°F (-74.3°C). Bone-chilling winds are also common.

During summer, which lasts from March to September, the pole experiences continuous daylight. Temperatures average around 32°F (0°C) but can briefly reach above freezing. This allows some melting of the ice cap.

Precipitation is very low, averaging less than 4 inches (100 mm) per year as snow. This is due to the extremely cold and generally dry air. Blizzards are frequent due to strong winds blowing newly fallen snow.

Sea Ice Conditions

The North Pole sits amidst the constantly moving sea ice of the Arctic Ocean. This ice freezes each winter and partially melts during summer, but some ice persists year-round.

In winter, the ice cap expands to cover the entire Arctic Ocean. It typically reaches maximum extent by March, measuring around 6 million square miles (15 million square km). At minimum extent in September, the ice shrinks to about half this size.

The ice thickness at the North Pole averages 6 to 10 feet (2 to 3 meters). The thickness has declined significantly in recent decades due to climate change warming.

Multi-year ice that survives summer melt used to dominate, but thinner, first-year ice now prevails. Satellite monitoring shows the oldest, thickest ice has diminished.

Significant Features

Aside from the geographic position on the northern axis, there are no natural features at the North Pole. It is simply a point in drifting sea ice. Underneath, the seabed is flat with no notable characteristics.

There are also no human settlements or structures. The only sign of human activity is scientific research stations set up on the sea ice. Accessing the immediate North Pole region is logistically very difficult.

Russia, Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Norway, and the United States all have territorial claims extending north to encompass the North Pole based on the surrounding continental shelves. But the pole itself is not owned by any country.

Visiting the North Pole

Visiting the North Pole

Reaching the North Pole is an extreme challenge due to its remote location amidst constantly shifting sea ice. The dangerous cold temperatures are another hurdle. There are no roads or facilities at the pole.

Some common routes to the North Pole are:

  • By airplane – Small charted planes can land on a makeshift ice runway.
  • On foot – Attempting to walk is grueling but possible on the ice cap.
  • By submarine – Nuclear submarines can surface directly at the pole.
  • On skis – Skiing expeditions face long, freezing treks.
  • By icebreaker ship – Ships with reinforced hulls plow through the sea ice.

Tourist trips to visit the North Pole by plane or icebreaker are expensive ventures costing tens of thousands of dollars. Expedition trips usually fly most of the way and then ski the last degree.

Conclusion

The North Pole is an iconic geographical location marking the northern axis point of Earth. It sits in the middle of the harsh Arctic Ocean, covered by constantly drifting sea ice. The inaccessible pole has extreme cold temperatures year-round but enjoys 24-hour daylight in summer. Reaching the remote North Pole is an immense challenge that only experienced polar explorers can achieve. The North Pole may be barren, but it holds major allure as the very top of the world.

Frequently Asked Questions About the North Pole

  1. What countries are closest to the North Pole? The landmasses closest to the North Pole are the northern coasts of Greenland (an autonomous territory of Denmark), Canada’s Arctic islands, and Russia’s Arctic islands such as Severnaya Zemlya.
  2. Can you stand at the North Pole? Yes, the North Pole has a floating ice surface just like the rest of the Arctic Ocean. However, it is constantly shifting, cracking, and drifting, so standing right on the precise pole point is rare.
  3. Has the North Pole ever melted? The ice at the North Pole melts partially but never fully during summer months. The pole has remained ice-covered even when the Arctic sea ice extent has hit record summer lows in recent years due to climate change.
  4. What is at the bottom of the ocean below the North Pole? The seabed directly below the North Pole is part of the flat, underwater Lomonosov Ridge that spans between Siberia and Greenland. The ocean depth there is over 13,000 feet (4,000 m).
  5. Who first reached the North Pole? The first undisputed expedition to reach the North Pole was led by American Ralph Plaisted in 1968 by snowmobile. American Robert Peary claimed to reach it in 1909 but this is widely disputed. Many explorers attempted reaching the pole by dogsled in the early 20th century.