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Antarctic Climate and Weather

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.

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