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Antarctica Geography

Antarctica Explanation :: --Antarctica History||Antarctica Geography||Antarctica Administration||

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The geography of Antarctica is dominated by its south polar location and, thus, by ice. The Antarctic continent, located in the Earth's southern hemisphere, is centered asymmetrically around the South Pole and largely south of the Antarctic Circle. It is surrounded by the southern waters of the World Ocean – alternatively (depending on source), it is washed by the Southern (or Antarctic) Ocean or the southern Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. It has an area of more than 14 million km².
Some 98% of Antarctica is covered by the Antarctic ice sheet, the world's largest ice sheet and also its largest reservoir of fresh water. Averaging at least 1.6 km thick, the ice is so massive that it has depressed the continental bedrock in some areas more than 2.5 km below sea level; subglacial lakes of liquid water also occur (e.g., Lake Vostok). Ice shelves and rises populate the ice sheet on the periphery. Only about 2% of the continent is not covered by ice.

Antarctica Regions

Physically, Antarctica is divided in two by Transantarctic Mountains close to the neck between the Ross Sea and the Weddell Sea. Western Antarctica and Eastern Antarctica correspond roughly to the eastern and western hemispheres relative to the Greenwich meridian. This usage has been regarded as Eurocentric by some, and the alternative terms Lesser Antarctica and Greater Antarctica (respectively) are sometimes preferred.
Western Antarctica is covered by the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. There has been some concern about this ice sheet, because there is a small chance that it will collapse. If it does, ocean levels would rise by a few metres in a very short period of time.

Antarctica Volcanoes

There are four volcanoes on the mainland of Antarctica that are considered to be active on the basis of observed fumarolic activity or "recent" tephra deposits: Mount Melbourne (2,730 m) (74°21'S., 164°42'E.), a stratovolcano; Mount Berlin (3,500 m) (76°03'S., 135°52'W.), a stratovolcano; Mount Kauffman (2,365 m) (75°37'S., 132°25'W.), a stratovolcano; and Mount Hampton (3,325 m) (76°29'S., 125°48'W.), a volcanic caldera.

Several volcanoes on offshore islands have records of historic activity. Mount Erebus (3,795 m), a stratovolcano on Ross Island with 10 known eruptions and 1 suspected eruption. On the opposite side of the continent, Deception Island (62°57'S., 60°38'W.), a volcanic caldera with 10 known and 4 suspected eruptions, have been the most active. Buckle Island in the Balleny Islands (66°50'S., 163°12'E.), Penguin Island (62°06'S., 57°54'W.), Paulet Island (63°35'S., 55°47'W.), and Lindenberg Island (64°55'S., 59°40'W.) are also considered to be active.

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The Antarctic continent is the coldest region on Earth. Most of this land is buried underneath masses of ice and snow that can grow to be one mile thick. Mountains peek out of the top of Antarctica's thick glaciers. There are many kinds of animals that live in the water and on the land that surrounds Antartica. Two 6 month long winter weather seasons along with severe winds make the Antarctic polar region more than just a cold place. Only part of Antarctica has been explored and scientists are hoping to be able to study more of this frigid environment in the next few years.




The Antarctic continent is 14,000,000 square kilometers in size, and it is the fifth largest continent. The only continents that are smaller than Antarctica is Australia and Europe. Ice covers almost 14,000,000 square kilometers of Antarctic's land.


Land Boundaries

Antarctica is not connected to any land masses.


There are 17,968 km of coasts that surround Antarctica.

Facts About Antarctica

The highest Antarctic mountain peak is Vinson Massif, 4897 meters tall..


Antarctica is about 1/2 the size of the United States.

antarctica map

Location: continent mostly south of the Antarctic Circle 

Geographic coordinates: 90 00 S, 0 00 E 

Map references: Antarctic Region 

Area: total: 14 million sq km land: 14 million sq km (280,000 sq km ice-free, 13.72 million sq km ice-covered) (est.) note: fifth-largest continent, following Asia, Africa, North America, and South America, but larger than Australia and the subcontinent of Europe 

Area - comparative: slightly less than 1.5 times the size of the US 

Land boundaries: 0 km note: see entry on Disputes - international 

Coastline: 17,968 km 

Maritime claims: Australia, Chile, and Argentina claim Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) rights or similar over 200 nm extensions seaward from their continental claims, but like the claims themselves, these zones are not accepted by other countries; 20 of 27 Antarctic consultative nations have made no claims to Antarctic territory (although Russia and the US have reserved the right to do so) and do not recognize the claims of the other nations; also see the Disputes - international entry 

Climate: severe low temperatures vary with latitude, elevation, and distance from the ocean; East Antarctica is colder than West Antarctica because of its higher elevation; Antarctic Peninsula has the most moderate climate; higher temperatures occur in January along the coast and average slightly below freezing 

Terrain: about 98% thick continental ice sheet and 2% barren rock, with average elevations between 2,000 and 4,000 meters; mountain ranges up to nearly 5,000 meters; ice-free coastal areas include parts of southern Victoria Land, Wilkes Land, the Antarctic Peninsula area, and parts of Ross Island on McMurdo Sound; glaciers form ice shelves along about half of the coastline, and floating ice shelves constitute 11% of the area of the continent 

Elevation extremes: lowest point: Bentley Subglacial Trench -2,555 m highest point: Vinson Massif 4,897 m note: the lowest known land point in Antarctica is hidden in the Bentley Subglacial Trench; at its surface is the deepest ice yet discovered and the world's lowest elevation not under seawater 

Natural resources: iron ore, chromium, copper, gold, nickel, platinum and other minerals, and coal and hydrocarbons have been found in small uncommercial quantities; none presently exploited; krill, finfish, and crab have been taken by commercial fisheries 

Land use: arable land: 0% permanent crops: 0% other: 100% (ice 98%, barren rock 2%) (2001) 

Irrigated land: 0 sq km 

Natural hazards: katabatic (gravity-driven) winds blow coastward from the high interior; frequent blizzards form near the foot of the plateau; cyclonic storms form over the ocean and move clockwise along the coast; volcanism on Deception Island and isolated areas of West Antarctica; other seismic activity rare and weak; large icebergs may calve from ice shelf 

Environment - current issues: in 1998, NASA satellite data showed that the antarctic ozone hole was the largest on record, covering 27 million square kilometers; researchers in 1997 found that increased ultraviolet light passing through the hole damages the DNA of icefish, an antarctic fish lacking hemoglobin; ozone depletion earlier was shown to harm one-celled antarctic marine plants; in 2002, significant areas of ice shelves disintegrated in response to regional warming 

Environment - international agreements

Geography - note: the coldest, windiest, highest (on average), and driest continent; during summer, more solar radiation reaches the surface at the South Pole than is received at the Equator in an equivalent period; mostly uninhabitable