The Arctic Ocean is the smallest and perhaps least accessible of the worlds oceans. It occupies only 26% of the global ocean area, and less than 10% of its volume. However, it exerts a disproportionately large influence on the global climate system through a complex set of positive and negative feedback mechanisms directly or indirectly related to terrestrial ice and snow cover and sea ice. Increasingly, the northern high latitude cryosphere is seen as an exceptionally fragile part of the global climate system, a fact exemplified by observed reductions in sea ice extent during the past decades.
The paleoceanographic evolution of the Arctic Ocean can provide important insights into the physical forcing mechanisms that affect the form, intensity and permanence of ice in the high Arctic, and its sensitivity to these mechanisms in vastly different climate states of the past. However, marine records capturing the late Cenozoic paleoceanography of the Arctic are limited - most notably because only a single deep borehole exists from the central parts of this Ocean. This paper reviews the principal late Cenozoic (Neogene/Quaternary) results from the Arctic Coring Expedition to the Lomonosov Ridge and in light of recent data and observations on modern sea ice.