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Northwards – to where?

What do Norwegians mean by their “northern areas”, what do these encompass and how do they relate to the Arctic? Definitions abound, and rest on widely differing conditions – such as vegetation, temperature, latitude and national boundaries.

Bilde av nordlys

One widely used definition of the Arctic – also called the high north – is the region above the Arctic Circle, which lies at roughly 66°N and divides Norway approximately in half.

But it seems a little excessive to describe northern Norway as an Arctic region, since the warming Gulf Stream keeps its coast ice-free around the year.

Other definitions of the Arctic accordingly refer to climatic conditions, such as the northern tree line. This largely coincides with the isotherm for a mean July temperature of 10°C. On that basis, the northernmost tip of Norway lies in the Arctic.

However, the Norwegian Polar Institute looks considerably further north and defines the Norwegian Arctic as the Svalbard and Jan Mayen islands with their surrounding seas.

Far north
The Norwegian government defines the far north as the land and sea areas extending from the south Helgeland region of northern Norway to the Greenland Sea in the west and the Pechora Sea to the east.

Where the PSA’s exercise of authority is concerned, the most relevant far-northern areas are the southern and western Barents Sea. This region has been opened for petroleum activities, and is also known as the Barents Sea oil province.

The Storting (parliament) resolved in 2013 to open the area bordering the Russian continental shelf for petroleum operations. This is known as Barents Sea South East.

Back to Facts: The far north