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I am designing a fantasy setting for pen-and-paper role-playing purposes. I have decided that a continent be situated right on a Pole of some imaginary planet with axial tilt comparable to Earth. My question is: is it possible to achieve environmental conditions in the Continent at least somewhat similar to those of current-day Europe?

My understanding of Earth climate is that the poles, while extremely cold, are also very dry in terms of precipitation since there is less solar radiation per square meter, and cold air holds less water vapour. I have heard that in a warmer part of Earth's history the poles had vegetation - is this possible even with the ever-present high-pressure zone?

I guess one way the continent could be habitable is to be full of freshwater rivers, originating from glaciers high atop of some mountains. I guess such mountains are plausible near the pole (I don't think the movement and mutual interaction of continental plates are somehow dependent of the latitude, are they?)

The size of the continent would be comparable to Central Europe. The land would include mountain ranges at the Pole and its vicinity, and a large meteorite crater (almost all asteroids orbit on the ecliptic plane, making an impact like this very rare, so that might be implausible).

The distance between the North Pole and the Arctic circle would be about two thirds of that distance on Earth, which would result in the planet being smaller (provided that the axial tilt remains similar, which I am intending to preserve).

(this was originally posted on 'earthscience' before I was unaware of the existence of 'worldbuilding', and there were some nice comments there)

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  • $\begingroup$ Define thoroughly warmer, even if our climate goes up 2* C there will still be ice at the poles $\endgroup$ – anon Oct 26 '17 at 15:43
  • $\begingroup$ @anon I define it as 'sufficiently warm' for the desired conditions to occur. $\endgroup$ – user35897 Oct 26 '17 at 17:01
  • $\begingroup$ We are currently in what is colloquially known as an "ice age". On a geological time scale, our poles are frequently more temperate than they are today. Not much fantasy required, just timing. Link: technocracy.news/index.php/2015/10/30/… $\endgroup$ – pojo-guy Oct 26 '17 at 20:19
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Not only possible, but likely. During the Eocene warming we had palm trees above the arctic circle. The nature of warm spells is that the poles warm up a LOT more than the equator does.

Water carrying capacity of air goes up about 7% per degree C. Much of the additional energy (whatever the cause) evaporates water. This gives a high capacity conduit to move heat away from the equator.

The poles aren't very big in area compared to equatorial regions. (Calculate how many Arctic circles will fit between the Tropic of Cancer and Capricorn) So even an inefficient heat conduit can raise Arctic temps by a bunch.

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The only answer to this is "sure its possible"

The things that critically impact a planet's climate as a whole are:

  • size/type of sun/star
  • distance from that sun
  • chemical composition of its atmosphere (im going to lump albedo here even though surface composition counts too)
  • volcanism (widely encompassing the planets mass, age, any gravity distortion. The more geologically active the planet is the hotter it can be).

Your planet just needs to touch these factors in such a way the poles meet your temp needs.

As for you other inaccuracies:

  • Land can exist at the poles and has historically (Antarctica for one)

  • Poles are not dry places, freezing places are dry places (because the freezing temperatures cause any moisture to solidify, which also tends to significantly reduce evaporation thus the air has less moisture. There wouldn't be snow at the poles if moisture couldn't get there.

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During the Cretaceous, East Gondwana (Antarctica + Australia) was mostly within the Antarctic Circle, with solid land over the South Pole and forests going all the way there. What you need is a continent that's lobsided: part of it extends far from the pole so warmer ocean currents and precipitation are diverted toward the pole, warming it more than it would be otherwise. Antarctica only started turning into a freezer once Australia separated, allowing a continuous band of cold water to circle the continent and isolate it.

What you'll end up with is a climate utterly unlike anything we have now: forests that flourish under 24 hour daylight during the summer, but then experiencing months of darkness in the winter.

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