The differences between the North Pole and the South Pole.
Have you ever seen a cartoon
or advertisement that showed penguins
and polar bears cavorting
together in the snow?
On the flip side
have you ever seen a documentary
film that showed penguins
and polar bears together
in the wild?
Didn’t think so,
since they live poles apart.
understands the difference
between Antarctica and the Arctic.
Here are eight ways to tell them apart.
What is the arctic circle ?
The Arctic is the area that lies north
of the Arctic Circle
The circle more or less
of the region
24 hours of sunlight in summer,
and 24 hours of darkness in winter;
it also marks the area where the average
temperature for July,
the area’s warmest month,
is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit
The Antarctic lies south
of the Antarctic Circle
and is surrounded
by the Southern Ocean.
The geographic North Pole
is positioned at the northernmost
point in the Arctic;
the geographic South Pole is
the southernmost point of the Antarctic.
The geographic North Pole should not be confused
with magnetic north,
toward which compasses point
and the position of which varies with time.
The Arctic region includes
the Arctic Ocean,
parts of Greenland,
Alaska, Canada, Norway and Russia,
and covers about 5.5 million square miles.
The Antarctic covers nearly the same area,
5.4 million square miles.
The Arctic Ocean accounts
for more than five million square miles
of the Arctic region.
During much of the year,
the Arctic Ocean is covered
in sea ice that can exceed six feet thick.
The Arctic is therefore a watery realm
fed by waters from the surrounding seas as well as by large
rivers, such as Russia’s
Lena and Canada’s Mackenzie.
The Arctic Ocean has an average depth
of 3,240 feet and a maximum depth
of 18,050 feet.
With an average winter
temperature of minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit
the Arctic is
compared to the Antarctic,
where winter temperatures in the
interior have sunk to minus 136 degrees Fahrenheit,
the world’s record for cold temperatures.
and long stretches
without sunlight limit plant growth at both poles.
The Antarctic is home to only three
flowering plant species—Antarctic hair grass,
Most of the plants in the Antarctic are mosses
liverworts, lichens and fungi.
1,700 different species of plants
that grow in the arctic tundra (arctic and sub-arctic).
One problem for polar plants
is that neither region receives much
The Arctic gets an average
of less than 20 inches of annual
and the Antarctic is
functionally a desert—the
area around the South Pole
gets six inches of
in an average year.
Compared to the Antarctic,
mammals abound in the Arctic on seasonal
sea ice. The polar bear,
the largest terrestrial
in the world, hunts on the sea ice in winter,
and summers on land where it fasts
or leavens its diet with plants and other foods,
The polar bear does not live in the Antarctic.
The northern reaches of the globe also are home to wolves,
arctic foxes, snowy owls,
and ground squirrel
species, as well as marine species such as walruses
and various seals
and sea lions. The area also is a breeding
ground for many migratory
The Antarctic lacks many of these animals,
but what it does house is impressive.
Consider the southern elephant seal,
one of the largest pinnipeds
(the group that includes seals, sea lions and walruses).
Adult males grow to about 19 feet long
and average about 7,000 pounds.
The Weddell seal, another native species,
has the southernmost range of any seal,
showing up at 77 degrees south in McMurdo Sound.
It ranges throughout marine waters around Antarctic,
maintaining its bulk of up to almost 1,400 pounds
by eating an array of fish, krill,
squid and other sea animals.
The Antarctic is home to several penguin
species—birds that don’t live north of the Equator,
let alone in the Arctic.
They feed on sea life and are preyed
upon by the leopard seal,
a relative of the Weddell’s.
The ocean surrounding Antarctica produces
vast quantities of krill,
which feeds creatures ranging from whales to penguins to fish.
Humans have lived in the Arctic for thousands of years.
The Antarctic, surrounded by rough,
forbidding waters, was never seen
(as far as history knows)
by humans until 1820,
and no human set foot on the continent
when an American seal hunter John Davis
debarked from a ship near Cape Charles in West Antarctica.
However, Davis’s claim to fame is contested—some
historians maintain that the first
documented visit by humans occurred at
Cape Adare in 1895.
human arrival on the fifth-largest
continent is a recent development.
Today, some research stations are active in the Antarctic.
Various treaties protect the continent
and its oceans from exploitation,
to one extent or another.
The Arctic is not so lucky,
so an international scramble
to lay claim
to parts of it and its natural resources,
such as its abundant
oil reserves, is sure to
arise as winter sea ice continues more than 30 years
at a rate of three to four percent per decade.
Such trends suggest that the Arctic,
where temperatures are rising at more than twice
the rate of the global average,
may be free of summer sea ice within the next 30-40 years.