The Antarctic is much colder than the
Arctic. On average temperatures in the Antarctic are 50-80 degrees Fahrenheit
lower than the Arctic. Although both areas receive the same amount of sunlight,
the ice and snow in Antarctica reflect much of the heat away, causing it to be
so cold. The winds also play a large factor in the temperature. Every increase
of 1.2 mph in wind speed drops the temperature a further 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit.
Even in summer a person's breath freezes as soon as it leaves the body.
The Antarctic is also a desert. Even
though it contains 70% of the world's fresh water, this has been built up over
thousands of years. The interior of Antarctica receives less than the equivalent
of two inches of rain each year. Of course, it doesn't come in the form of
rain, but as snow. This makes inland Antarctica one of the world's driest
deserts. The Air is too cold to hold moisture, which is why there is so little
precipitation. Even on the coast, where the temperatures are higher, there is
less than the equivalent of 15 inches of rain per year.
The Antarctic Peninsula, in West
Antarctica, directly south of South America has the highest temperatures. During
a really hot summer there, the temperatures can reach as high as 59 degrees
Fahrenheit, but the summer average is around 50 degrees. You can compare that to
the winter in Arizona. The average summer temperatures in the warmest place in
Antarctica are much the same as the average winter temperatures in the warmest
place in Arizona!
The cold in Antarctica makes it almost impossible for
humans to live there. Although the temperatures are so low, a person wearing
dark clothing can actually feel quite warm, as the clothes absorb the heat of
the sun. Any exposed skin, though, freezes. When it is frozen blood cannot reach
it and it dies. This is known as frostbite. The sun reflecting off the ice also
causes problems, and people must wear dark glasses outside or they may become
blind, from the ultra-violet rays. Add to the problem of the cold and sun, the
wind. Walking against such strong winds is very tiring. The combination of all
these factors is what caused so many explorers to fail to reach the South Pole
when they tried. In such cold climates humans must consume a lot of food to
maintain their energy. Early explorers often had to give up because they were
too cold, too exhausted and too hungry to go on. They had to carry or pull al
the food and clothing they needed on sleds. That meant spending more energy. It
was extremely difficult to make a balance between the energy needed to pull the
food (so requiring more food) and taking just enough food to give enough energy.
Animals in Antarctica
Early Explorers in Antarctica