About Antarctica

December 13, 2000 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Adapted from the United States Antarctic Program Participant Guide, 2000-2002 edition, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia 22230.


This land-based continent is the highest, driest, coldest, windiest, and emptiest place on earth. The continent is covered by an ice sheet 4,776 meters deep. This ice makes up approximately 90 percent of all the world’s ice (by volume) and 70 percent of all the world’s fresh water. There are many penguins and abundant sea life— but no indigenous peoples.

Who Owns It?
No one nation owns Antarctica. The Antarctic Treaty, which has been signed by 44 countries, reserves the area south of 60 degrees south as a zone for the peaceful conduct of research.

Treaty nations coordinate and cooperate to maximize search results and logistics requirements.

How Cold Is It?:
The mean annual temperature at South Pole Station is minus 56oF. During the Austral Summer, temperatures at McMurdo Station may reach as high as 40oF, while at South Pole Station, the summer temperature may reach 0oF. Palmer Station has a milder climate, with summer temperatures reaching as high as 55oF.

Science: Due to a variety of unique conditions, Antarctica provides excellent conditions for a variety of scientific research including global warming, ozone changes, climatology, earth sciences, glaciology, astronomy, UV radiation, oceanic circulation, marine ecosystems, and meteorite studies, to name but a few.

Weather Update: The NSF media relations representative to the Office of Polar Programs, Peter West, reports that since reliable records began to be kept in 1957, the previous record snowfall for November was in 1971. McMurdo got 20.6 inches that year.

This year, the station recorded more than 25 inches of snow in the month of November alone.

The bad weather has caused numerous flight delays or cancellations for planes traveling the “air bridge” to Antarctica from New Zealand, and in many cases, around the continent itself.

December also started out with heavy snowfall.

The last few days McMurdo has had a reprieve, with “warm” sunshine heating the dark volcanic surface of Ross Island and causing impressive melting. On one day, the mercury reportedly “soared” to the upper 30’s Fahrenheit.

“The prevailing weather pattern here in the summer is clear skies and bright sunshine, so let’s hope it holds,” Mr. West said in an e-mail from McMurdo.

—Image courtesy National Science Foundation


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Recruitment & Retention Webinar
Combatting Teacher Shortages: Strategies for Classroom Balance and Learning Success
Learn from leaders in education as they share insights and strategies to support teachers and students.
Content provided by DreamBox Learning
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum Reading Instruction and AI: New Strategies for the Big Education Challenges of Our Time
Join the conversation as experts in the field explore these instructional pain points and offer game-changing guidance for K-12 leaders and educators.
Education Webinar The K-12 Leader: Data and Insights Every Marketer Needs to Know
Which topics are capturing the attention of district and school leaders? Discover how to align your content with the topics your target audience cares about most. 

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: September 20, 2023
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education From Our Research Center What's on the Minds of Educators, in Charts
Politics, gender equity, and technology—how teachers and administrators say these issues are affecting the field.
1 min read
Stylized illustration of a pie chart
Traci Daberko for Education Week
Education Briefly Stated: August 30, 2023
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: August 23, 2023
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read