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Antarctica 2016

Climate Change
Scotts Polar Expeditions

Antarctica is the coldest, driest, windiest and highest place on Earth. It is almost completely covered in ice.

Of the seven continents in the world, Antarctica is:

  • the coldest
  • the driest
  • the windiest
  • the highest.

The Antarctic continent, including all the islands and ice shelves, is about fifty times the area of New Zealand or twice the size of Australia. 

Antarctica is almost totally covered by ice. Less than 1% of Antarctica is ice free rock.

The ice sheet is between 2500m and 4700m thick.

Why is Antarctica so Cold?

Antarctica is cold because: 

  • the sun is always low in the sky over Antarctica - sunlight is spread over a large area
  • there are 24 hours of darkness each day during the winter
  • the whiteness of the ice reflects much of the Sun’s energy
  • Antarctica is high - average height is 2500m (the height of Mt Taranaki)
  • a cold ocean current surrounds Antarctica.

Antarctica is a long way from other continents so there is no land nearby to help keep it warm.

Why is Antarctica so Windy?

Moving air is called wind. In Antarctica it is very windy. 

Gravity makes the cold air flow from high up on the sheets of ice down to the coast. 

How cold, wet and windy is it where you live?

Ready for a quiz?

Antarctica quiz

Audio Māori keywords: 

“Great God! This is an awful place!” The words of the explorer, Captain Scott, when he and his men finally reached the South Pole on 17th January 1912. Find out more about Captain Scott’s expedition and the science that his team carried out while in Antarctica.

Antarctica is the coldest, windiest and driest place on Earth. Image: Maximilian Dörrbecker.

Antarctica is a long way away from other continents. It takes over five hours to reach Ross Island in Antarctica from Christchurch, New Zealand. How many kilometres is it from Christchurch to Antarctica? Image: LEARNZ.

Antarctica is almost completely covered in ice all year round. This is Cape Byrd on Ross Island. What parts of Antarctica are not covered in ice and why is this? Image: LEARNZ.

Sea ice grows around Antarctica in winter and much of this breaks up and melts in summer. How do you think sea ice affects the climate in Antarctica? Image: LEARNZ

This is Scott Base, the New Zealand base on Ross Island in Antarctica. This is where you will be based during the field trip. Image: LEARNZ.

Working in Antarctica is challenging. Scientists drill through sea ice to make sure it is thick enough on which to travel safely. What other challenges do you think scientists have to overcome while working in Antarctica? Image: LEARNZ

Climate Change
Scotts Polar Expeditions