The Arctic is heating up twice as fast as the rest of the world. The melting ice makes for easier access to valuable resources and shorter shipping routes. While climate change poses a threat of extreme weather and rising seas, business and industry are tempted by new economic opportunities.
The five Arctic states - Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States - are carrying out expeditions around the North Pole to back up territorial claims. A country which can prove its continental shelf extends beyond the 200 mile coastal limit could profit from any natural resources discovered there.
In summer 2010, the Russian yacht Peter I sailed through the North-East and the North-West passages. What was once considered virtually impossible is increasingly becoming commonplace for big freighters. Shipping traffic through the North-East passage along the Russian coast increased tenfold in the last three years.
The shipping route from Shanghai to Hamburg through the North-East passage is 6,400 kilometres shorter than the traditional route through the Straits of Malacca and the Suez Canal.
Geologists estimate that around a quarter of the world's remaining undiscovered oil and gas reserves are in the Arctic. Experts warn of the high risks of drilling operations in a region that will remain dangerous even with climate change. In late 2012 the Kulluk, a Shell oil rig, ran aground off Kodiak Island in Alaska.
Greenpeace is running a global campaign against oil drilling in the Arctic. The organization is concerned about the potentially disastrous impact of an oil accident on the sensitive environment there. Experts agree that tackling an oil spill in the icy waters of the remote region would pose huge challenges.
Cruises in Arctic waters have become a profitable business. The trips can be risky, especially in the dark Arctic winter. Last year the Arctic Council passed a first agreement governing responsibilities for search and rescue in the region. A new code for polar shipping is still in the pipeline.
De-icing aeroplanes is a routine task in polar regions like Tromsö. A new study suggests that flights over the Arctic Circle play a considerable role in increasing black carbon pollution. Black carbon particles absorb solar heat and aggravate global warming.
Denmark, Canada, Russia and the USA disagree about territorial claims in the Arctic Ocean. The rise in economic interest has led to countries increasing their military presence in the region too. Bases like Daneborg in eastern Greenland (which belongs to Denmark) have become more important.
The armies of the Arctic countries conduct regular exercises in the Arctic. Even if there is no threat of immediate conflict, every country wants to make its presence felt. Here, the US submarine USS Annapolis rises above the ice.
It is not only the Arctic countries which want to reap the rewards of climate change. The icebreaker "Snow Dragon" was the first Chinese ship to make the journey through the Arctic to Europe in 2012. China is currently building a new icebreaker and seeking observer status on the Arctic Council.
India opened its own research station on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard in 2008. Japan and South Korea are also active in the 'high north'.
Governments and big business are getting more and more interested in the Arctic. Climate change is making mining there easier. In addition, melting ice is opening up transport routes that were previously impassable.