Antarctica (Encyclopedia of Science)
Antarctica, lying at the southernmost tip of the world, is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent. Ice covers 98 percent of the land, and its 5,100,000 square miles (13,209,000 square kilometers) cover nearly one-tenth of Earth's land surface, about the same size as Europe and the United States combined. Despite its barren appearance, Antarctica and its surrounding waters and islands teem with life, and the continent plays a significant role in the climate and health of the entire planet.
Although humans have never settled on Antarctica because of its brutal climate, since its discovery in the early 1800s explorers and scientists have traveled across dangerous seas to study the continent's winds, temperatures, rocks, wildlife, and ice. While some countries have tried to claim parts of the continent as their own, Antarctica is an independent
continent protected by international treaty from ownership by any one country.
Archaeologists and geologists believe that millions of years ago Antarctica was part of a larger continent called Gondwanaland. About 200...
(The entire section is 1766 words.)
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Antarctica (World of Earth Science)
Among the seven continents on planet Earth, Antarctica lies at the southernmost tip of the world. It is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent. Ice covers 98% of the land, and its 5,100,000 sq mi (13,209,000 sq km) occupy nearly one-tenth of Earth's land surface, or the same area as Europe and the United States combined. Despite its barren appearance, Antarctica and its surrounding waters and islands teem with life all their own, and the continent plays a significant role in the climate and health of the entire planet.
Seventy percent of the world's fresh water is frozen atop continental Antarctica. These icecaps reflect warmth from the Sun back into the atmosphere, preventing planet Earth from overheating. Huge icebergs break away from the stationary ice and flow north to mix with warm water from the equator, producing currents, clouds, and complex weather patterns. Creatures as small as microscopic phytoplankton and as large as whales live on and around the continent, including more than 40 species of birds. Thus, the continent provides habitats for vital links in the world's food chain.
Geologists believe that, millions of years ago, Antarctica was part of a larger continent called Gondwanaland, based on findings of...
(The entire section is 2203 words.)