Polar Climates

A polar climate is an area that has a temperature that stays frozen almost the whole year.  This area can have ice and snow all year around.

Solar radiation has a lower intensity in polar regions

Why Do Polar Climates Have Snow or Ice All Year?

Some polar climates have snow and ice all year around because they have parts of them that do not get very much sunlight.

North Pole

The North Pole is a polar climate and the weather there is usually around 32 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and can get below negative 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter.

A polar bear with cub

The North Pole is called the Arctic Region.

South Pole

The South Pole is another polar climate and the weather is usually around negative 18 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and as low as negative 76 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter.

The South Pole is called the Antarctic Region.

Ice Cap Climates

The North and the South Pole are called ice cap climates which means that the ice is so thick there that it reflects light from the sun.  In the ice caps, the ice does not melt even in the summer months.

A map of the Arctic

Most of the ice cap areas do not get very much snow or rain.  Places like Antarctica are considered to be a desert because they are so dry.

Antarctica is the coldest place on the Earth.

Earth Tilt

The way that the Earth tilts can cause areas to have more sunlight or less sunlight.  In the polar climates, some of them have months where there is no sun at all.  This happens when the Earth is tilted away from the sun and usually happens in the winter months.

In the summer, some polar climates have sunlight all day long, 24 hours.  This happens when the Earth is tilted towards the sun.

Where Are the Polar Climates?

The polar climates are found in the North and the South Pole.  Some of the places include:

  • Canada
  • Greenland
  • Siberia

People of the Polar Climates

People do not live in the polar climates because they are too cold and have strong winds.  Since there is a lot of snow and ice, people have not found a way to live there.  The only people that spend a lot of time at the polar climates are people that are research scientists.


A tundra an ecosystem that is cold and dry.  Tundra biomes are oftentimes found in the northern part of the world such as in Alaska and other northern areas.  The temperatures of the tundra biome range from long, cold winters to short and cool summers.

There are two types of tundra’s, an Arctic Tundra, which means that it is far north along the Arctic Circle, and the Alpine Tundra, which is high in the mountains above the tree line.

Winter in the Tundra

Winter is the longest season that happens in the tundra biome and this can last for over 8 months.  When winter happens, there usually is snow and oftentimes, places do not get any sunshine.  During the winter, the temperatures are very cold, and they sometimes even get as low as -60 degrees Fahrenheit.

People sometimes call a tundra, a frozen wasteland because during the winter months, plants and trees cannot grow and animals sometimes die because food is hard to find.

The tundra has a layer of ground that is almost always frozen.  This is called a permafrost.  The permafrost is below the topsoil and it stops trees and other plants from growing because they cannot get their roots to go through the frozen soil.

Summer in the Tundra

In the summer, a tundra biome has sun for over 24 hours.  The temperatures can reach up to 50 degrees and this causes much of the snow to melt.  During this time, plants sometimes grow, but most of them grow close to the ground.

The melting snow oftentimes forms ponds and other areas of water and this causes the animals, such as tundra birds to come out and enjoy the weather, even though most tundra birds travel to find places that are warmer in the winter, this is how they survive.

Plants in the Tundra

Shrubs, grasses, herbs and lichens grow in the tundra.  The lichens for example, grow close to the ground and they provide food for the animals when it is winter.  Growing close to the ground protects the plants from the freezing cold winds and this helps them to survive.

Plants in the tundra have short roots because the roots cannot dig through the ice and when it is summer, the plants flower quickly.  Most of the plants in the tundra are perennials. A perennial plant comes back year after year with the same root.  This gives the plants time to grow in the summer and allows the plants to save the nutrients to last them through the winter.

Most of the plants in the tundra tend to have dark and hairy stems and leaves, which helps them to gather energy from the sun quicker and easier.

Animals in the Tundra

Animals in the tundra consist of wolves, birds, ducks, geese, swans, foxes, owls, oxen and more.  The animals come out more in the summertime than they do the winter because most of the birds migrate to warmer places when it is winter.

Insects lay eggs that hatch in the summer and some of the mammals go into a deep sleep, or hibernate, during the winter months to survive.

During the summer, many birds, insects and fish come out of hibernation and they make the tundra filled with animal life.

Some animals that live in the polar regions are:

  • Polar Bears
  • Wandering Albatross
  • Penguin
  • Arctic Foxes
  • The Fur Seal

Animals like the Arctic Fox live by eating small rodents that live in the cold areas.  These animals rely a lot on the small animals because they have to live inland.

Animal Adaptions

Animals will try to live close to the inland so that they can find warmth and shelter, but they will move out further when the food gets harder to find.

Some of the animals adapted to the winter and they grow thicker fur coats to keep them warm and some of their fur turns white so that they can blend in the snow and be safe from predators.  The Snowy Owl, for example, has a white coat and stays in the tundra all year long.

Is the Polar Region in Trouble?

There are some things that threaten the polar region such as climate change.  As the temperatures get hotter, the ice will begin to melt, and this will make the coastlines to get smaller and smaller.

When this happens, animals such as polar bears and seals will lose the homes that they have, and they will have to find other places to live.

When the polar ice caps melt, animals like the penguins also lose their homes and have to migrate because they have no where to sit or to hunt.

Another threat to the polar region is overfishing.  When people take too many fish out of the water, they can cause the fish to not be able to reproduce.  This can cause there to be less fish and it can cause the lifecycle of the animals to change.  Animals need the fish in the water to be able to eat and live.

Some fish have been so overfished that there are some that are completely extinct.

Pollution is another threat in the polar regions.  When there is garbage or gas or oil or other things that go into the water, animals are harmed.  This can cause them to lose their homes or to lose their lives.

Sometimes, marine life such as fish or seals can get stuck in garbage and this can cause them to die.

When there are chemicals that are put into the water, this can cause animals to die as well.

More Facts About Polar Regions:

  • Ronald Amundsen was the first person to reach the South Pole from Norway.  He did this on December 14, 1911 and only had his dogs with him.
  • Even though most people do not live in the tundra, many people do go there to hunt.
  • Antarctica is the smallest continent but is covered in 98% of ice.
  • The lowest point of Antarctica is called Bentley Subglacial Trench and is under the sea.
  • The lowest point of the Arctic is called Fram Basin and is miles below sea level.
  • The land is covered by a thick sheet of ice in the polar regions.

What Did You Learn?

  • What is a polar region?
    A polar region is an area that is below freezing most of the year.
  • What is interesting about the day and night of a polar region?
    Sometimes, a polar region will have all daylight or all darkness.  This happens because of how the Earth tilts.
  • Do people live in most polar regions?
    Most polar regions only have animals and scientists that are doing research in the area.
  • Are the polar regions safe?
    The polar regions face a lot of danger such as pollution, climate change, melting, overfishing and more.
  • What is a tundra?
    A tundra is part of the polar region that is very dry and is like a desert.  Antarctica is a tundra.