An Introduction to the Arctic and the Arctic Council

Some 2000 miles from Virginia at its closest, the Arctic region is connected and relevant in various, complicated ways to the Old Dominion, as well as to the entire world.  The region’s climate influences global weather and sea levels; its geographic location makes it important to the world’s commercial shipping; it is home to unique habitats and organisms and to valuable fisheries; it provides significant energy resources and is the focus of intense debate over expanded energy extraction; and its indigenous peoples have great cultural and historic significance as well as significant economic, social, and political challenges.

The Arctic Council was formed in 1996 as a high-level, intergovernmental forum to promote cooperation on the region’s environmental, economic, and social issues.  Member states are Canada, Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States; in addition, several organizations representing indigenous peoples are considered “Permanent Participants.”  In 2015, the United States will become chair of the Council for a two-year period (Canada is the current chair). U.S. participation in the Council is under the leadership of the State Department.  More information on the Arctic Council and the issues it addresses is available online at; information about U.S. participation is available from the State Department’s Web site at

For information on many scientific and cultural aspects of the regions, see the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Web site, “Arctic theme page,” online at  For more information on the Arctic region’s connection to global weather, please see the National Snow and Ice Data Center Web site at

Tundra and Arctic Ocean Barrow Alaska Jun24 2005

Tundra landscape and Arctic Ocean at Barrow, Alaska, June 24, 2005.

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