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Some Interesting Facts about Antarctica

By Robert Smith

Here are a few interesting facts about Antarctica, the Earth's southernmost continent. Unlike the Arctic region, where the North Pole is located, which includes parts of Canada, Greenland, Russia and other countries, the continent of Antarctica belongs to no country and has no government, although territorial division among several nations has been and continues to be considered.

Climate

It is the coldest part of the world, with temperatures in the winter (July through September) reaching -80 to -90 degrees Celsius. During the summer months of December, January, February and March, the coastal regions can be as warm as 15 degrees Celsius or 59 degrees Fahrenheit.

The continent is a desert with less than four inches of precipitation per year, although snowfall of 48 inches (four feet) in 48 hours has been recorded in coastal areas. There are glaciers and ice fields in the center of the continent due to the cold temperatures and high altitudes. The continent is surrounded by icebergs, which in the 1920s were bigger than ships, but today have shrunk, due to CO2 emissions and global warming.

Population

Technically, no one lives there, but research stations provide facts about Antarctica. The number of researchers on the continent is approximately 1000 during the winter. During the summer, there may be as many as 5000 researchers from Russia, the US and 25 other countries.

Thanks to them, we know that there are coal, copper, chromium, nickel, gold and other mineral deposits in Antarctica, but the quantities are small and the 1991 "Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty", along with amendments made in 1998, bans mining and other activities that could damage the delicate ecosystem.

There are many offshore fishermen from South America, New Zealand and Australia, but they rarely come to shore. Many tourists visit the area each summer as well. It is a large continent that could, were it not for the climate, support a huge human population, but currently, the land belongs to the penguins and seals.

Geology and Topography

Facts about Antarctica, such as highest mountain, largest lake and other geological and topographical information that is applicable to most areas of the world have been difficult to attain, due to the thick layer of ice that covers the majority of the central continent.

New techniques, such as remote sensing, satellite imagery and ground-penetrating radar have revealed some of the structures that reside beneath the ice. A mountain range, similar to the Andes, is found in West Antarctica. A volcano that erupted some 2200 years ago has been identified.

The Hole in the Ozone

Every year researchers provide more facts about Antarctica. Since the 1970s, they have focused primarily on the hole in the ozone caused by chlorofluorocarbons. It was the largest ever in 1998 (10 million square miles), but it is growing smaller. It is believed that it will continue to grow smaller and eventually close within the next 50 years.


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