• A

  • > Ablation

    Encompasses all the ways in which ice mass is lost from the surface of a glacier or ice sheet, such as melting at the surface or the base

  • > AC

    Arctic Council, a high level forum of Arctic nations (Canada, Finland, Denmark/Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States). Also includes indigenous peoples representatives.Arctic

  • > ACAP

    Arctic Contaminants Action Program. One of the working groups of the Arctic Council, formally established in 2006. The goal of ACAP is to reduce emissions

  • > Accumulation

    Encompasses all the ways in which a body of ice (a glacier or ice sheet) gains mass at its surface, such as snowfall and rime

  • > ACIA

    Arctic Climate Impact Assessment. A collaborative project of the Arctic Council and IASC. Started in 2000, the aim is to gather and assess knowledge about climate variability, climate change and increased

  • > Active layer

    The layer of ground above permafrost that is subject to annual thawing and freezing.

  • > Adaptation

    In ecology, adaptation is the process by which a species acquires certain traits that improve survival in a particular environment.

  • > Albedo

    The ‘whiteness’ of a surface. The higher the albedo, the more the surface reflects light. Snow and ice have high albedos; a dark rock would

  • > AMAP

    Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme. One of the working groups of the Arctic Council. Established in 1991. AMAP is responsible for measuring the levels of

  • > Anthropogenic

    Caused by, or due to, human activities. For example, anthropogenic climate change.Caused by, or due to, human activities. For example, anthropogenic climate change.

  • > AOSB

    Arctic Ocean Sciences Board.

  • > APECS

    Association of Polar Early Career Scientists.

  • > Archaeology

    The study of past human activity, mainly through studying artefacts and structures left behind, and by revealing other evidence of past activities. The first systematic

  • > Arctic

    Definitions of the Arctic vary according to environmental, geographical, political, cultural and scientific perspectives. Some scientists define the Arctic as areas having a high latitude,

  • > Arctic circle

    A line of latitude currently at 66° 33′ 44″ (66.5622°) north of the Equator. It is the southern limit of the region of the Earth

  • > Arctic haze

    Layers of brownish haze visible above the horizon, particularly in the Arctic spring. Caused by pollution originating from outside the Arctic. The haze consists of

  • > Auroroa borealis

    A glow in the night sky, most commonly visible at high latitudes. Sometimes appearing as shafts or curtains of coloured light. The aurora is caused

  • B

  • > Biodiversity

    Biological diversity. The many and varied forms of life on Earth (collectively known as biota). As well as diversity of species (species diversity), there is also

  • > Biogeochemical cycle

    Biogeochemical cycles are pathways that chemicals take as they move between living organisms and environment. Some well-defined biogeochemical cycles include the water cycle, the carbon

  • > Biogeochemistry

    The study of the cycling of chemicals between organisms and the surface environment of the Earth. The Earth’s surface environment is generally divided into four:

  • > Biology

    The study of life and living organisms (from the Greek word ‘bios’ meaning life).

  • > Biota

    In simple terms, this word is a collective term for all living things. To refer only to animals, we use the word fauna, and for plants, flora.

  • > Boreal

    Northern, from Boreas, the Greek god of the north wind.

  • C

  • > CAFF

    Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna. One of the working groups of the Arctic Council. Established in 1992. Its main role is to advise governments on

  • > Carbon cycle

    Describes how carbon moves around the environment. It is an example of a biogeochemical cycle. See also carbon flux. In recent years the carbon cycle has been

  • > Carbon dioxide

    A gas (chemical formula CO2), which occurs naturally in the Earth’s atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is given off by organisms when they respire, and it is absorbed

  • > Carbon flux

    In the carbon cycle, the transfer of carbon from one ‘pool’ to another. Scientists try to work out the rate of flux, i.e. how much carbon

  • > CBMP

    Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Project. An initiative of CAFF, started in 2000.

  • > Chemistry

    The study of matter at the atomic and molecular scale.

  • > Circumarctic

    Around or encircling the Arctic, as in the environmental and/or administrative regions that surround the Arctic.

  • > Climate

    The average weather we would expect over a long period of time (seasons, years, decades). Climate varies from place-to-place across the Earth. Climate is determined

  • > Climate change

    According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, climate change is change in the climate of the whole Earth or a region of

  • > Climate feedback mechanism

    A change in the climate which has an effect that then causes further climatic change. There can be both negative and positive feedbacks. A negative

  • > Climate of the Arctic

    The Arctic is often defined based on climate, for example, the area where the average temperature for the warmest month is below 10°C (50ºF).

  • > Climate variability

    Changes in climate that are driven solely by natural processes such as variation in the Earth’s orbit, the sun’s energy output, volcanic activity and meteorite

  • > Coniferous

    Cone-bearing, as in coniferous trees such as pines and firs.

  • > Crevasse

    A crack or fissure in a glacier or or ice sheet* (Note that a crevice is a fissure in rock).

  • > Cryosphere

    Places on earth where water is in its solid form, frozen into ice or snow. This includes polar regions but also high altitude areas (high

  • > Cuesta

    A ridge formed by gently tilted sedimentary rock strata. From Spanish for “slope”.

  • D

  • > Dendrochronology

    The practice of working out the age of wooden structures by studying and counting tree rings. When a tree grows, it puts on new growth

  • E

  • > Earth science

    Also known as geoscience. A collective term for the sciences related to the planet Earth.

  • > Ecology

    The study of living organisms in their environment, including where they are found and how they interact with their physical environment and with each other,

  • > Ecosystem

    All the living organisms (including people) in an area as well as its physical environment, functioning together as a unit. An ecosystem is made up

  • > Ecosystem service

    A benefit provided by an ecosystem that humans enjoy, such as clean water, healthy soils or prevention of erosion. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment identified the following groups of ecosystem

  • > EPPR

    Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response. One of the working groups of the Arctic Council. The goal of the EPPR Working Group is to contribute to the

  • F

  • > Fauna

    The animals that live in a particular region, habitat or time (such as geological period like the jurassic). For plants, we use the term flora, and

  • > Flora

    The plants that live in a particular region, habitat or time (such as geological period like the jurassic). For animals, we use the term fauna, and

  • > Food web

    A food web is a description of feeding connections in an ecological community (i.e. a group of organisms). Put simply, food webs describe what ‘eats’

  • G

  • > Geography

    The study of the Earth, such as places, landforms, people and processes by which the Earth changes over time. Geography is divided into two main

  • > Geology

    The study of the solid Earth, rocks and processes by which rocks form. ‘Geo’ is derived from the Greek word for Earth.

  • > Glacier

    A glacier is a large, persistent body of land-based ice that forms over many years where the accumulation of snow is greater than its loss

  • > Global warming

    The enhanced greenhouse effect due to human activity and the resulting widely accepted rising average temperature near the surface of the Earth since the late

  • > Greenhouse gas

    A gas found in the earth’s atmosphere that traps heat radiated from the surface of the earth, and causes the earth’s temperature to rise. The

  • H

  • > Heath

    A type of shrubland habitat mainly consisting of low growing, woody plants (shrubs). Heaths occur on acidic soils and in dry conditions and are common

  • > Hydrology

    The study of water in the environment, particularly its amount, movement and quality. It encompasses water in rivers, lakes, glaciers, soil and underground aquifers. The way

  • I

  • > IASC

    International Arctic Science Committee, a non-governmental organisation whose aim is to encourage and aid cooperation in Arctic research.

  • > ICARP-II

    Second International Conference on Arctic Research Planning.

  • > Ice sheet

    A mass of glacial land ice extending more than 50,000 square kilometers (20,000 square miles). The two ice sheets on Earth today cover most of

  • > Indigenous

    Belonging to a certain place. Indigenous people are distinct ethnic groups that have historic connections to people who lived in a territory prior to the

  • L

  • > Lichen

    Living organisms consisting of two organisms, a fungus (a mycobiont) and a photobiont, living together in a body called a thallus. The photobiont can use

  • M

  • > Mass balance

    The difference between the amount of ice a glacier gains in winter and the amount lost in summer. A glacier which is gaining mass has a positive

  • > Meltwater

    The water released from melting snow or ice, such as in a glacier. For many people it is their main source of water.

  • > Meteorology

    The scientific study of the atmosphere and its phenomena, especially in relation to weather and weather forecasting.

  • > Methane

    A colourless, odourless gas (chemical formula CH4). Some microbesproduce methane. It can also be found in underground deposits. Methane is the main component of natural gas,

  • > Microbe

    A microscopic living organism. Microbes include bacteria fungi, protozoa and viruses. In Arctic environments, most microbes are found in soils and aquatic environments (both fresh and saltwater).

  • > Mycology

    The study of fungi. Fungi are fundamental for life on earth, and important in all environments, including in the Arctic. Many fungi live in close association

  • P

  • > Palaeo-

    (Also spelled ‘paleo-‘). Prefix meaning ‘early’, ‘ancient’ or ‘prehistoric’. Used in terms such as palaeobotany, which is the study of past plant life, and palaeoclimatology,

  • > Palsa mire

    A type of mire (or boggy wetland) complex found in boreal and alpine regions. Palsas are peat mounds, sometimes containing permafrost. The palsas are usually 2-4 metres high, palsas up

  • > PAME

    Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment. One of the working groups of the Arctic Council. It is the focal point of the Arctic Council’s activities related

  • > Peat

    Peat is a soil type formed from slowly decomposing vegetation. It is found in wet areas where the lack of oxygen slows the breakdown of

  • > Permafrost

    Permafrost is frozen ground that remains at or below zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit) for two or more years. It forms in regions where

  • > Phenology

    The study of the timing of recurring natural events such as bud opening, egg laying or the arrival of a migratory animal. Many living organisms

  • > Photosynthesis

    A chemical process that takes place in living cells, by which some living organisms (such as green plants and algae) convert energy in sunlight into

  • > Pingo

    A frost mound, consisting of an ice core covered with soil and vegetation. They are found in permafrost regions. They are formed when water is naturally injected

  • R

  • > Respiration

    A chemical process that takes place in living cells, by which living organisms use organic compounds to create energy. One of the bi-products of respiration

  • S

  • > Subarctic

    The area immediately south of the Arctic circle. Generally, subarctic regions fall between 50°N and 70°N latitude, depending on local climate. In other words, the subarctic

  • > Sustainable development

    Sustainable development has been defined in many ways, but the most frequently quoted definition is from a report called Our Common Future, also known as the

  • > SWIPA

    “Snow, Water, Ice, Permafrost in the Arctic” an assessment carried out by AMAP. The third AMAP assessment addressing Arctic climate issues.

  • T

  • > Taiga

    Boreal forest, a nearly continuous belt of coniferous trees across North America and Eurasia. Taiga is dense forest with many fallen trees and marshy soil. The term derives

  • > Thermokarst

    A landform that results when ground ice (ice-rich permafrost) melts. The melting leaves small, marshy hollows and hummocks in the land as the ground settles unevenly.

  • > Thermokarst lake

    A (usually shallow) body of water found in a depression within a thermokarst landform. The water is from thawed permafrost. If the permafrost continues to thaw the lake

  • > Tundra

    A type of ecosystem in which tree growth is limited by low temperatures. The origin of the word is from from the Kildin Sami word tūndâr, meaning “uplands” or “treeless

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