Snow, water, ice and permafrost in the Arctic

Why will your Facebook account be 'frozen'?

During the Cold War, and the renewed fears over nuclear warfare in the 1970s and 1980s, many Polar communities found themselves part of a network of Distant Early Warning (DEW) stations, which were intended to provide early warning of the use of nuclear missiles.

People began to realise that although the USA and the USSR (as it was called at the time) may have been separated on the usual atlas maps, but when looked at from the poles, they were only 53 miles apart across the Bering Strait.

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My Facebook page has frozen!

In October 2011, Facebook announced that plans to open three huge new data centres near the town of Lulea in Northern Sweden. The cold climate is an advantage to this sort of industry, as the racks of computer equipment which host and transfer web pages generate a lot of heat, and have to be cooled down usually, so this location is ideal. The global nature of the internet, and the transfer of data means that this facility does not have to be in any particular location. The building is planned to be the size of 11 football fields, and will bring a construction project worth over £70 million to this remote location just south of the Arctic Circle.

Read a Daily Mail article providing images and further information about Facebook's plans in Lulea

Other recent developments in this region include:

  • The Global Seed Vault on Svalbard, which is designed to hold examples of all the world's species
  • Trade routes via the new shipping lanes to the north of both Canada and Russia will lead to a new growth in shipping, and what Vladimir Putin has called 'the new Suez Canal'
  • Renewed interest in tourism into the region - it is possible to take a day trip to Greenland from Leiffur Eirikkson airport in Iceland, for example.


Explore these developments and others in the region, and put together a timeline with some key dates from the recent past, and with dates into the future. Add further significant events to this timeline as they happen.

Further reading

  • 'The Magnetic North' book cover'The Magnetic North' - Sara Wheeler (Jonathan Cape, London, 2009)
    Wheeler travels in the countries that circle the North Pole, speaking to people who are experiencing the changes in landscape, climate and culture in locations from the Dalton Highway in Alaska to Siberian cities
  • 'The New North' book cover'The New North' - Laurence Smith (Profile Books, 2011)
    Explores the changing fortunes of the Arctic, and the way that climate change and other future trends are likely to change the lives of the people who live there
  • 'Arctic Dreams' book cover'Arctic Dreams' - Barry Lopez (Picador, 1986)
    A classic of the genre. Landscape and wildlife are explored in a lyrical exploration of the area and its relationship with the people who live and work there.
  • 'Frozen Planet' book cover'Frozen Planet' - Alastair Fothergill and Vanessa Berlowitz (BBC, 2011)
    Book to accompany the latest BBC Natural history series that was 4 years in the making
  • 'After the Ice' book cover'After the Ice' - Alun Anderson (Virgin Books, 2009)
    Analysis of the future life and politics of the region as climate change brings about a new Arctic.

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