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Resource 01 - Facts About Antarctica

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The Resource itself

Resource 1

Resource 1 - Facts About Antarctica

  • The sheer scale of Antarctica is awesome (see Insert 1).
  • Antarctica is a continent capped by an inland ice sheet up to 4.8km thick. This contains around

90% of the world’s total ice and over 70% of the freshwater at the surface of the Earth.

  • Currently only 0.4% of the surface of Antarctica is free from snow and ice. The peaks of the

mountain chains stick up above the ice as nunataks. The highest point is Mount Vinson (4897m above sea level), sufficiently high to impact on Rossby wave circulation in the upper air.

  • The weight of the ice leads to massive isostatic depression, pushing the land down by nearly

1km in places.

  • Antarctica is classified as a cold desert, with a snowfall equivalent to only 150mm of rain per

year. Snow builds up gradually and ice flows by extrusion from the ice caps towards the coast as huge glaciers. In many places they extend out to sea as massive ice shelves.

  • The Southern Ocean is a continuous belt of sea surrounding Antarctica. In winter over half

the Southern Ocean freezes to a depth of about 1m. This sea ice has a significant effect on oceanic and atmospheric circulations. Much of the sea ice melts in summer thus giving a narrow window of opportunity for scientific research and tourist access.

  • Antarctica contains no indigenous peoples. 18 countries operate year round scientific research

stations on the Antarctic continent and surrounding islands, employing scientists from nearly 30 countries. Whilst only around 1,000 scientists and support staff work there in winter, the number rises to over 10,000 in December (summer).

  • Increasing numbers of tourists are visiting the last great wilderness of Antarctica – currently

around 30,000 per year – but this number is expected to rise.

  • All activities are regulated by the Antarctic Treaty (1959) which designated Antarctica as a

natural reserve ‘devoted to peace and science’.

Resource 1 diagram

Summary of the resource

The resource lists key facts in relation to the continent. It has no credited author so arguably could be put down as being less reliable than a credited source. Has a useful diagram that shows features such as pressure and winds. Diagram is shown above.

Key points

  • Capped by an ice sheet 4.8KM thick
    • Contains around 90% of world's total ice and 70% of freshwater on earth's surface.
  • Only 0.4% of surface free from snow
  • Nunataks - peaks of mountain ranges that stick up from the ice
  • Highest point is Mount Vinson at 4897m above sea level - high enough to affect Rossby wave circulation
  • Isostatic depression caused by weight pushes land down by nearly 1km in places.
  • Classified as a cold desert due to low precipitation (150mm)
  • Snow builds up gradually
  • Ice flows via extrusion from ice caps to coast
  • Southern Ocean surrounds Antarctica
    • Over half freezes in winter.
      • Has a significant effect on oceanic and atmospheric circulations
    • Most melts in summer (allows for research and tourism)
  • No indigenous people. Only people are scientists and occasional tourists.
  • Increasing levels of tourism
  • Activities regulated by Antarctic Treaty

Links with other resources

  • Resource 8
    • Some useful facts regarding tourism.
  • Resource 9
    • Information about the research stations
  • Resource 10
    • Mention of the Antarctic treaty (rather tenuous link)

Similar Contexts/Case Studies/Countries

  • The Arctic
    • Obvious similarities in the general facts about each of the Poles. One such example being that they both have low precipitation levels. Probably worth looking over the Arctic facts for the sake of name dropping similarities.

Other useful information/resources

  • More links etc. Again, be sure to cite reasons for your links.

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