's southernmost continent
, overlying the South Pole
. It is situated in the southern hemisphere, almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle
, and is completely surrounded by the Southern Ocean
. The nearest land mass is South America
at 965 km.
Its area is close to 14 million km2. Antarctica is the fifth largest continent after Asia, Africa, North America and South America.
Antarctica is the coldest, driest and windiest continent, and has the highest average elevation of all the continents. The minimum recorded surface temperature on the planet, −89.2 °C, was at the Soviet research station Vostok in Antarctica on 21 July 1983.
Antarctica has 98% of its total area covered by ice. The mean thickness of the ice sheet is 1829 m and the maximum thickness has been measured as 4776 m. While most of the ice in East Antarctica is on bed rock, in West Antarctica a majority of it floats on water. Due to accumulation of ice over millions of years, the continent has been depressed by about 600 m on average.
Since there is little precipitation, except at the coasts, the interior of the continent is technically the largest desert in the world. There is no permanent population and there is no evidence of any existing or pre-historic indigenous population. Only cold-adapted plants and animals survive there, including mosses and lichens, and several species of penguins, ice seals and the Antarctic fur seals.
The climate of Antarctica
is the coldest climate on Earth
. It is colder than that of the Arctic regions
because of the elevation, continental influence, and the fact that the Antarctic winter currently occurs when the Earth is just past its aphelion
. The Antarctic climate is also extremely dry, with an average of only 166 mm (6.55 in.) of precipitation per year; however, on most parts of the continent, the snow never melts and is eventually compressed to become the glacial
ice that makes up the Antarctic ice sheet
. The lowest natural temperature
recorded on the continent (and consequently on Earth) was −89.2°C (−128.6°F), recorded on Thursday, July 21, 1983, at Vostok Station
. The highest recorded natural temperature on the continent was 14.6°C (58.3°F) in two places, Hope Bay
and Vanda Station
, on January 5, 1974. The mean annual temperature of the continental interior is −57°C (−70°F), but the coast is warmer on average. In fact, McMurdo Station
on Ross Island
experiences a summer daytime average temperature of −3°C (26.6°F). The continent's unique location and its ice sheet
are of ongoing interest to science
that is engaged in climatology
and global warming
The Crabeater Seal, Lobodon carcinophaga, is one of the most remarkable, though least known, of the mammals of the world. More than one in every two seals in the world is a Crabeater Seal and the population biomass of Crabeaters is about four times that of all other pinnipeds put together.
- ... that the lowest officially-recognized temperature ever recorded ,from a ground observer, in nature on Earth was an astounding −89.2°C (−128.6°F), recorded on July 21, 1983, at Vostok Station?. The lowest temperature ever recorded, from a space observer, was -93.2°C (-135.8°F), recorded on August 10, 2010, from the NASA Aqua satellite.