The Arctic Ocean is the smallest and shallowest (maximum depth, 16,400 feet) of the five oceans. It contains 22 percent of the world’s continental shelves, which comprise almost a third of the Arctic’s seafloor. Those shelves begin at the shoreline, and their outer edges are in water depths from 330 to 650 feet.
The Arctic region is warming more that twice as fast as the rest of the planet. Its ocean is losing permanent ice cover, making more area accessible for longer periods of time. Some estimates state it will be ice-free in the summers within two decades.
There is an Arctic Council made up of the five nations that border the Arctic Ocean: Russia, Canada, the United States, Norway, and Greenland (an autonomous province of Denmark). The other Arctic non-coastal states of Sweden, Finland, and Iceland also are members. The council is intended to help coordinate member activities and resolve territorial claims in the region. Other nations, such as China, Japan, and South Korea, plus the European Union, have asked to join the council as “permanent observers.”