Climatic Regions

From the descriptions which have been presented earlier of the different elements of the Arctic climate, one can see that their spatial changes are extremely heterogeneous. Surprisingly, the greater horizontal gradients occur in winter, when the differentiated influence of the solar energy is meagre or equal to zero (polar night). During this time the differences in observable meteorological fields are caused mainly by the atmospheric circulation and, to a significantly lesser degree, by the oceanic circulation. This is connected with the fact that in the cold half-year, the cyclonic activity is more intensive and frequent than in the warm half-year. In addition, the temperature contrast between the Arctic air and the advected air from the moderate latitudes is highest during this time. The same may also be observed in the case of oceanic circulation. In turn, the effect of the underlying surface is not large since snow and sea-ice cover almost the entire Arctic.

On the other hand, in the warm half-year, the solar radiation factor is most important and causes the greatest heterogeneity of the meteorological elements in all spatial scales: micro-, topo-, and macroclimatic. The underlying surface, which is significantly differentiated (snow, ice, tundra, and water), increases the influence of solar radiation. However, because of the attenuated influence of the atmospheric and oceanic circulation and the larger areas of the Arctic Ocean and seas not covered by sea ice (open water), the climatic differences between the regions are less in summer than in winter. On the other hand, the greatest horizontal gradients of the meteorological elements are observed in the coastal areas in the macroclimatic scale, and between glaciated and non-glaciated areas in the topoclimatic scale (Baranowski 1968; Przybylak 1992a).

There is very little literature concerning the climatic régionalisation of the Arctic. Only Prik (1960, 1971) investigated this problem for the entire Arctic. The results of her work have been published more recently in the Atlas Arktiki (1985). Prik (1960), using peculiarities of the atmospheric circulation and the distribution of the main meteorological elements, distinguished five main climatic regions: Atlantic, Siberian, Pacific, Canadian-Greenland, and Interior Arctic. In her next paper devoted to the climatic régionalisation of the Arctic, Prik (1971) delimited seven climatic regions. The sixth and seventh regions were distinguished by dividing the Canadian-Greenland region into three new ones: Canadian, Baffin Bay, and Greenland. The climatic regions and sub-regions (in the case of some regions) presented in the Atlas

Arktiki (1985) were delimited based on the analysis of the distribution of mean long-term fields of almost all climatic elements, their seasonal changes, as well as the character of variability of these elements.

For the Canadian Arctic, Maxwell (1982) distinguished a number of climatic regions. The major climatic controls which he takes into account are as follows: cyclonic and anticyclonic activity, the sea ice-water regime, broad scale physiographic features, and net radiation. In addition, the secondary sectioning was made using information about local topography, aviation weather, maritime influences, temperature, precipitation, snow cover, and wind. He delimited five climatic regions, and within each of them (except region III) at least two sub-regions. There are no similarities between Maxwell's climatic régionalisation of this part of the Arctic and that of Prik (Atlas Arktiki 1985). The reason for this is probably the different criteria used for the delimitation of the climatic regions and the more detailed and subjective character of Maxwell's régionalisation.

A more detailed description of the climate in the Arctic for the seven above-mentioned regions (see also Figure 1.2) is presented in the following sections.

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