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Antarctica and Its Geographic Value

     Larger than both and Europe, Antarctica contains 10% of the land mass in the world. However, this continent is far from hospitable, with sustain winds reaching 192 mph and temperatures as low as negative 89 degrees Celsius. This body of land is encircled by the Southern Ocean, which is comprised of the southernmost waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans.

The seas are blessed with the richest concentration of nutrition in the universe, sufficient to feed numerous whales, fish, etc. Vast quantities of micro forage, or krill, thrive under the ice shelves. This food is the primary fare for consumption by sea creatures such as seals and whales.

The wildlife of Antarctica must be equipped to endure its harsh climate, since it is the most arid, bitterly freezing, and windiest continent. The yearly rainfall is a mere 200 mm on the coast (less as you travel inland), and it is maintains the highest average elevation among the 7 continents. Many animals have uniquely adapted to the cold, and thrive in Antarctica, penguins and seals among them; even more surprisingly, assorted tundra vegetation and several types of algae have adapted to the harsh climate as well.

One unique characteristic of Antarctica makes if quite important. The greenhouse effect, however, is more advanced at the poles because the cold makes the molecules which make up our atmosphere heavier and more concentrated. The high levels of energy output from the sun are far more pronounced at the poles, as these molecules allow for greater energy absorption, essentially increasing the surface temperature of these areas.

The atmosphere contains almost 79 percent nitrogen and 21 percent oxygen. Lesser amounts of methane and carbon dioxide are also there. These substances, combined with water, serve to generate a tremendous amount of heat. This process is called the greenhouse effect.

Because of the so-called "slingshot effect" at the equator, the regions around the poles build up methane and carbon dioxide faster than more temperate regions of the earth. Because the temperature increase from Greenhouse effects is 4-5 times greater in Antarctica, this region makes an ideal location for research, especially into the Greenhouse Effect.

The ice sheet that covers Antarctica is nearly 3 miles thick. This tremendous thickness is a build up of snow accumulated over many centuries. Scientists study core samples by analyzing ancient air bubbles and atomic isotopes to better understand conditions in prehistoric eras.

The well-known ozone layer breach is said to be the result of harmful CFC's ... an atmospheric imbalance caused by these toxic pollutants. These negatively respond with the ozone. As such, it has created a warming effect in the area, destroying ice shelves.

Once the ice pieces sever they float north and thaws. This melting increases the volume of the oceans and causes the sea level to rise. It also eliminates the protected spawning grounds of the krill.

When all of Antarctica's ice melts, sea levels are expected to increase to over 180 feet. That means the sky scrapers of New York City would be fully submerged in the ocean from the 20th floor down. Low-lying countries like islands of the South Pacific would be completely engulfed by water.

Many of those who have seen Antarctica would surely say it is a land of elegant and exhilarating physical splendor. The animals don't always view people as a threat. With the astounding beauty of the nature and it's innocent wildlife, it is a stimulating sight.

It is up to the future generations to preserve the pristine splendor or Antarctica. The currently accelerating destruction was set in motion long ago. Many nations are joining together to work toward sustainable maintaining and preserving this beautiful landscape.

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Posted on 2010-03-12, By: *

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