Antarctica -1 Brrrrrrrr
I’m McKensie Daugherty, your host for On the Ocean. Feel that chill in the air? It’s getting cold outside. But beware, even now in the midst of summer at bottom of the Earth, it is much colder there. That’s right, this month we are talking about the white continent, and how the Antarctic region uniquely influences the rest of the planet. The Antarctic continent itself covers about 14.1 million square miles, nearly one and a half times larger than the U.S., but its terrain is almost entirely covered by ice. A trans-Antarctic mountain range separates West and East Antarctic Ice Sheets over a mile thick in some areas that weigh down the bedrock to below sea level. Frozen, but not stationary, the Antarctic ice is always on the move. It is discharged into the Southern Ocean by a network of continental ice streams, glaciers, and floating ice shelves. The world’s strongest winds fuel the continuous eastward flow of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current around Antarctica, the largest ocean current on Earth. This swirling current extends throughout the entire water column, and essentially isolates Antarctic glaciers and ice shelves from direct oceanic influences. In some segments of the Antarctic continental shelf, the coldest and densest waters on the planet are produced during wintertime. In summer these areas are home to whales, seals, penguins, exotic cold-water species of algae, and unique invertebrates that thrive in nutrient-rich waters. Antarctica has no permanent human establishments by any nation or ethnic group, but a couple of thousand people live year-round on the continent at research stations established by several countries. In 1961 The Antarctic Treaty System, now involving 52 parties (including the U.S.), was established to ensure that Antarctica is used only for scientific investigation. Researchers study the ocean-ice-atmosphere interactions at key Antarctic locations with global relevance. This has been On the Ocean, a program made possible by the Department of Oceanography and a production of KAMU-FM on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station. For more information and links, please go to ocean.tamu.edu and click On the Ocean.
Contributing Professor: Dr. Alejandro Orsi
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