SunstarTV Bureau: Antarctica is one of the highest, driest, coldest and windiest continent which exist. This is the only place truly unlike anywhere else on earth. The amazing fact is only this one contains 90% of the ice on earth. So it’s the time to find out the most 7 surprising facts about Antarctica.
Antarctica holds most fresh water of the world
The well known thing that the Antarctic ice sheet is the largest on Earth, covering an incredible 5.4 million square miles of Antarctic mountain ranges, valleys and plateaus. An incredible 60-90% of the world’s fresh water locked in this vast ice sheet. At its deepest, Antarctica’s ice is 4.5km (2.7 miles) thick – that’s half the height of Mt Everest! If it all melted, global sea levels would rise about 60 m (200 ft).
Antarctica – a desert!
Here the question is ‘how come an icy land called as a desert?’ When most of us think of deserts we think of sand dunes and sizzling temperatures, but technically a desert doesn’t have to be hot or sandy, it’s more about how much precipitation the area receives as rain, snow, mist or fog. A desert is any region that receives very little annual precipitation.
The average annual rainfall at the South Pole over the past 30 years was just over 10 mm (0.4 in). Although there is more precipitation towards the coast, the average across the continent is low enough to classify Antarctica as a polar desert.
So while Antarctica may be covered in ice, it has taken an incredible 45 million years to grow to its current thickness, because so little rain falls there.
There is no time zone in Antarctica
The question of time in Antarctica is a tricky one. At the South Pole the lines of longitude, which give us different time zones around the globe, all meet at a single point. Most of Antarctica experiences 6 months of constant daylight in summer and 6 months of darkness in winter. Time starts to feel a little different without the normal markers for day and night.
Antarctica has active volcanoes
Antarctica is home to several volcanoes and two of them are active. Mount Erebus, the second-highest volcano in Antarctica is the southernmost active volcano on Earth. Located on Ross Island, this icebound volcano has some unique features such as ice fumaroles and twisted ice statues that form around gases that seep from vents near the volcanic crater.
The second active volcano is on Deception Island, a volcanic caldera in the South Shetland Islands.
A Subglacial lake that flows blood red
In 1911 on a remote glacier in East Antarctica, a strange phenomenon was observed. The lily white ice of the Taylor Glacier was being stained a deep red by water flowing from deep within the glacier.
For many years the source of the red colour remained a mystery, but in 2017 scientists announced that they had discovered the cause. The water flowing from within the glacier was from a sub glacial lake high in salt and oxidised iron, and when it came into contact with oxygen the iron rusted, giving the water its striking red shade, and its name: Blood Falls.
Diamond dust floats in the air
Diamond dust is made of tiny ice crystals that precipitate out of humid air near the Earth’s surface. It’s a little like an icy fog. As ice crystals hang suspended in the air, sunlight causes them to sparkle, creating a glittering effect that looks like a million tiny floating diamonds. Diamond dust is also responsible for beautiful optical phenomena like sun dogs, halos and light pillars.
Antarctica Peninsula is rapidly warming areas on earth
The Antarctica Peninsula is one of the most rapidly warming areas on the planet. Over the past 50 years, the average temperatures have increased by 3 degree Celsius which is five times the average increase on Earth.
This has led to some changes, for example where and when penguins form colonies and sea ice forms. It also means that the lush mosses of the Antarctic Peninsula have a slightly longer growing season.