Antarctica’s Many Distinctions Make for Severe Weather
Antarctica's weather patterns are fierce to say the least. This is the most inhospitable continent on Earth for several reasons, the most obvious of which is the cold temperatures. In fact, the coldest temperature ever recorded was here, at Vostok, on July 21, 1983. It was -129° Fahrenheit. A balmy 59° is the highest temperature ever measured; recorded both by those optimists at Hope Bay and the Vanda Station on January 5th, 1974.
During the winter, the average temperature is -30°Fahrenheit. A primer in the geography of Antarctica will explain why the physical features such as 98 percent of it covered in ice (4 kilometers thick in some places), average elevations well over a mile (making it the highest continent), and its circular continental shape contribute to making it the most hostile of environments in terms of weather.
Apart from being the coldest, it is also the driest continent, which is hard to grasp when you think of the vast expanses of deserts on many other continents. The fact that it is virtually bereft of fresh water resources and rain fall make it so; there is only an average of 150 mm of snowfall, which makes it a cold desert. The air above the continent has only 1/10 of the water vapor concentration that temperate latitudes have.
It’s also dark for six months out of the year, and in the interior, the angle of the sun is such that it gets little of its warming effects. Any discussion of Antarctica's unique weather patterns must necessarily include the legendary, varying, and punishing winds, which also give it the distinction of being the windiest place on Earth. So, for one more record distinguishing it as a leader among the world’s continents, winds were once recorded here moving at an astounding 16 feet per second.
Image credit/Wikimedia Commons/Andrew Mandemaker