Antarctica Geography

Antarctica Geography: A summary of information about Antarctica Geography, from government research data as well as independent research and other sources.

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Antarctica: Geography

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 International disputes
Coastline
17,968 km
Maritime claims
none, but 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 5,140 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: Southern Ocean 0 m
highest point: Vinson Massif 5,140 m
Natural resources
none presently exploited; iron ore, chromium,
copper, gold, nickel, platinum and other minerals, and coal and
hydrocarbons have been found in small, uncommercial quantities
Land use
arable land: 0%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 0%
forests and woodland: 0%
other: 100% (ice 98%, barren rock 2%)
Irrigated land
0 sq km (1993)
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
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 coming 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
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
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