NOVA

Arctic Passage

Student Handout

Antarctic Conditions Fact Sheet


Land
Ice and snow cover 98 percent of the continent.

Climate
Winter extends from May through August. Summer extends from December through February. Temperatures during January and February range from -15°C to -35°C inland and reach up to 0°C along the coast. Antarctica's inland plateau has been called a polar desert. Very little moisture is in the air there, so dehydration can be a major concern for people working on the ice.

Wind and Wind Chill
Winds range from about 8 kilometers per hour to 64 kilometers per hour. Below freezing temperatures and high winds can lower the temperature to -100°C and decrease the visibility to less than 30 meters.

Storms
Storms arrive quickly. They can be very localized—the sun might be shining in one area while a severe snowstorm is happening just 80 kilometers away. Blowing snow can create "whiteout" conditions with zero visibility. Low clouds on the horizon contribute to low visibility and make it hard to see crevasses and cracks in the ice. When in unknown territory, it is advised to stay put during a storm.

Light
Due to the polar location, continuous daylight occurs during the summer, the time when scientists conduct their research.


Resources
Find more on cold weather survival and Antarctic weather at the following Web sites:

Antarctic Weather
www.antarcticconnection.com/antarctic/weather/index.shtml
Provides news and information about Antarctic weather.

Antarctica: The Frozen Continent
www.divediscover.whoi.edu/antarctica/weather.html
Supplies weather information and a method to estimate effective temperature.

Day-to-Day Polar Life
www.usatoday.com/weather/resources/askjack/ajckicel.htm
Considers what is needed to survive in Antarctica.

Outdoor Action Guide to Hypothermia and Cold Weather Injuries
www.princeton.edu/~oa/safety/hypocold.shtml
Reviews how the body loses heat to the environment, how the body regulates core temperature, and how to diagnose and treat hypothermia.


Arctic map


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