Right now I'm in the middle of writing my master thesis which is about modelling the ocean bottom pressure (obp) under areas with sea-ice coverage.

In most Oceanic General Circulation Model's (ogcm) obp is calculated prognostically, so it's basically just the sum of the sea-surface height $\zeta$.

Recent studies show an increase in $\zeta$ for regions with continental shelf within a reasonable timespan, so I was wondering how much of the arctic sea is above continental shelf? I know it is probably a lot, but are there any numbers, units of $\text{km}^{2}$?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Which definition of "continental shelf" are you interested in? There are simple bathymetric definitions (0 to 200 meters water depth), sequence-stratigraphic definitions (the area that's subaerially exposed during lowstands), and geomorphic definitions (defined by changes in slope). All three are different, and the first and last are easy to calculate from bathymetric data. Guessing from your links, it seems like you're interested in the oceanographic definition? (0-200 meters water depth) $\endgroup$ Nov 27, 2014 at 15:24
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeKington thanks,you are right, i wasn't very accurate. I know that i could calculate it with bathymetric data, like ETOPO1... but i wanted to ask if anyone knows already the answer to it $\endgroup$ Nov 27, 2014 at 15:30
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know the answer either, but I just wanted to point you towards UNCLOS data, definitions, etc. The UN is involved because this is a hot topic in international relations in the Arctic, as you probably know. Canada's page on the matter has some links. $\endgroup$
    – Matt Hall
    Nov 27, 2014 at 17:26
  • $\begingroup$ Shouldn't you be calculating your answer based on the model bathymetry, rather than real-world bathymetry anyway? $\endgroup$
    – naught101
    Nov 29, 2014 at 12:29

1 Answer 1


Yool & Fasham in An Examination of the Continental shelf pump in an open ocean general circulation model Global Biogeochemical Cycles Volume 15, Issue 4, pages 831–844, divide the continental shelves into 32 named regions (see Fig. 2), and give areas for each (see table 1).

The regions that are completely in the arctic ocean are:

Russian arctic shelf 1,503,000 sq. km.

Siberian arctic shelf 1,825,000 sq. km.

North American arctic shelf 498,000 sq. km.

There are three other regions that are partially in the arctic ocean,

Iceland and Greenland shelf, North Sea shelf, and Berring Sea shelf, but looking at Fig. 2 and table 1 these seem like small contributors.

Roughly 4 million sq. km total.


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