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Life at One End of the World - Part One

December 16, 2013

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Oh, the weather outside is frightful! But before you complain about the cold, be thankful that you aren’t in Antarctica, one of the coldest places on Earth! Here are a few facts from the latest edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Kids. They are sure to make you shiver.

Life at One End of the World—Part One

Antarctica is the size of the United States and Mexico combined. No town exists on this vast continent, but there are several research stations. Of those, only one is at the southernmost point on Earth: Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. About 150 scientists, technicians, cooks, and others live and work there during the summer. Just before winter arrives, 100 of them head north to warmer places.

When “Polies” (the name for people who live there) look out through the windows of this station, they see ice, ice, and more ice. Ice covers more than 97 percent of Antarctica (the ice contains about 90 percent of all of the fresh water on Earth). The station sits on a flat slab of ice that is 9,000 feet thick and 9,306 feet above sea level. It is like being on a mountain without a peak. The ice drifts about 33 feet every year.

Despite all of the ice, Antarctica is considered a desert because the humidity in the air is low and the continent gets only 7 to 9 inches of snow each year. (Because the wind blows almost constantly, snowfall is hard to measure.) The snow usually falls as small, sparkling ice crystals called “diamond dust”; snowflakes are rare. Because the temperature is so low, the snow never melts!

Frigid darkness prevails at the South Pole for about 6 months, with sunlight reappearing on the equinox in September and increasing until the solstice in December. Then, daylight begins to diminish and is gone on the equinox in March, when the cycle begins again.

South Pole Station Stats

Highest Recorded Temperature: 9.9 degrees F

Lowest Recorded Temperature: –117 degrees F

Annual Average Temperature: –57 degrees F

December Monthly Average: –18 degrees F*

July Monthly Average: –76 degrees F*

Average Wind Speed: 12.3 mph

Peak Wind Gust Recorded: 55 mph, in August 1989

*Summer in the Southern Hemisphere occurs from December through March; winter, from June through September.

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