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? Try the 'Antarctica' interactive activity.