Our explorers are traveling around the North Pole through the Arctic. However, there is a second polar region on the other – the southern – side of the globe, the Antarctic. Are there any differences between them, you ask? Absolutely!
The greatest difference is how these huge ice landscapes are being connected with what’s underneath the ice. The Arctic is an ice cap which is more or less floating on top of the Arctic Ocean; there is no actual land! On the other hand the Antarctic is a proper continent where the ice is sitting on the land and not on water. The Antarctic land is only surrounded by water, the Antarctic Ocean.
But that’s not all! The seasonal variations of the ice extent are greater in the southern region. In summer at the South Pole there is four times less ice (4 million square kilometers) than in the southern winter (20 million square kilometers). Furthermore, the southern continental ice can be up to 5 kilometers thick, its sea ice only up to 2 meters which almost melts completely in summer again whereas the northern sea ice reaches from a few centimeters to 5 meters. As there is only water underneath the Arctic, there is no continental ice. In the summer most of the annual new sea ice in the Arctic will melt, leaving behind only centimeters and the thicker ice of several years.
Also, with an annual mean temperature of -49°C in the Antarctic it is a lot colder than in the Arctic, with ‘only’ -18°C.