written by: Mary Rajotte
• edited by: SForsyth
• updated: 1/7/2012
With a hostile environment, millions of kilometers of ice, and rapidly changing weather, the geography of Antarctica is a fascinating area of study. We'll take a look at some of its characteristics that make it unique.
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With such a hostile environment, the geography of Antarctica may seem like it may not support plant or animal life. However, various mammals, birds and other wildlife, as well as fish and plants to survive in this harsh climate.
Antarctica lies south of the Antarctic Circle in the Southern Hemisphere. With a land area of more than 14,000,000 km², this fifth-largest continent of the world is just over one half times the size of the United States.
Almost the entire continent, 13.7 2,000,000 km² is covered in ice, while the remaining approximately 280,000 km² has no ice on it at all.
The landmass is made up of 98% ice sheet with the remaining 2%, barren rock. The average elevation of Antarctica is between 2000 and 4000 m with resident mountain ranges up to 5000 m in elevation.
Approximately half of the coastal areas are ice free. Ice shelves form along the coast and in the areas where seawater comes in contact with the ice shelf, these chunks of ice break free in the form of icebergs. As this continues to occur more often, it is an indicator of the changing climate of our world and an important way for environmentalists to study the effects of climate change on our environment.
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A number of minerals can be found on our Antarctica including iron ore, copper, gold, nickel and platinum.
Penguins, albatross, and other birds call Antarctica home. A few species of whales and seals can also be found there, although many of these creatures migrate to warmer water during the Antarctic winter.
Because there's so much ice on Antarctica, it is difficult for many plants to cultivate there. No trees or shrubs grow there, but mosses, lichen, and fungi are able to tolerate the harsh conditions.
Temperatures in Antarctica remain around the freezing mark around the coastal areas in the summer, which runs from December to February. In the winter, temperatures range from -10°C to -30°C in the coastal regions.
The higher plateaus have a much colder climate. Because of their higher elevation and the distance from the ocean, summer temperatures that range anywhere from -20°C to -60°C, in the winter.
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The Antarctic Islands
Most islands like their very closely from the coast of Antarctica. However, the South Shetland Islands and South Orkney Islands lie from 100 to 500 km from the coast and are designated as separate island groups. Several of these islands have been designated as protected areas with species of seals, birds, and penguins living there.
Known as the world's coldest, windiest, and driest continent, Antarctica is a harsh environment, but it plays an important role in the geography of the world. But it's unique climate, natural resources, and unique physical features make it important role in the geography of the world.