A layer of ice up to two miles thick covers a continent as big as the United States and Mexico combined. Antarctic ice contains 70% of the world's fresh water (90% of the world's ice). If it were divided up, every person on Earth could have a chunk of ice larger than the Great Pyramid. Although 98% of Antarctica is ice, there is land underneath the ice cover, unlike the Arctic where the ice floats on top of the ocean.
The average temperature on the Antarctic continent is -490C. The lowest temperature ever recorded anywhere on Earth was measured here at -128.60F (-890C.). Water temperature averages a comparatively balmy 33oF. Salt water temperature will drop to about 280F before it freezes.
Because of the frigid air temperatures, rain rarely falls here. It rarely snows either; the South Pole gets less than 6 inches of snow a year.
Antarctica is Earth's southernmost continent, encapsulating the South Pole. It is situated in the Antarctic region of the southern hemisphere, almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle, and is surrounded by the Southern Ocean. At 14.0 million km2 (5.4 million sq mi), it is the fifth-largest continent.
Antarctica, on average, is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent, and has the highest average elevation of all the continents. Antarctica is considered a desert, with annual precipitation of only 200 mm (8 inches) along the coast and far less inland. There are no permanent human residents, but anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 people reside throughout the year at the research stations scattered across the continent. Only cold-adapted plants and animals survive there including penguins, seals, nematodes, tardigrades, mites, many types of algae and other microorganisms, and tundra vegetation.
Centered asymmetrically around the South... [continues]
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