Geography of Antarctica
The continent of Antarctica is located mostly south of the Antarctic Circle. Physically Antarctica is divided in two by mountains close to the neck between the Ross Sea and the Weddell Sea. The portion of the continent west of the Weddell Sea and east of the Ross Sea is called Western Antarctica and the remainder Eastern Antarctica, since they 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 would do so, ocean levels would rise by a few metres in a very short period of time.
- Land boundaries:
- 17,968 km
- Maritime claims:
- 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
- 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:
- 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:
- Other: 100% (ice 98%, barren rock 2%)
- Irrigated land:
- 0 kmē (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:
- Ozone hole
- 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.