Why is Antarctica cold?

  I really enjoyed this lesson today, I thought we made excellent progress and there was a real sense of interest, or perhaps that was just me! 😉

We started with a starter for ten based on the visit of Andrew Conney, I think I’m going to up the anty with this and make it into a mini-going competition, with top position recieving a prize each half term. What do you think?

The main objective of the lesson was to consider why Antarctica was so cold. We started by just considering some facts and figures about the temperature in Antarctica, for example, if you were to throw a mug of boiling hot water (don’t try this at home), it would freeze before it reached the ground.

We then moved on to look at two geographical concepts. I illustrated the process of differential heating by using a globe and a touch. I think it helped us understand that the Sun’s rays at the South Pole cover a larger surface area, due to the tilt of the Earth on it’s axis (23.5 degrees), therefore the heating is less efficient. I also used Axl’s head and a hairdryer as an analogy 😉 .

We also discussed the volume of atmosphere that the Sun’s rays had to pass through at various points on the Earth. The atmosphere is slightly thicker at the Antarctic, therefore more of the Sun’s energy is reflected, therefore less heating (also sometimes called direct insolation) occurs.

We also briefly discussed the Albedo Effect (See Japanese Image.), because the continent is mostly covered by ice, this also reflects heat. Here we had a bit of a futures discussion, about the impact of global warming; higher temperatures will result in ice melt, leaving nice blue ocean to absorb more heat!

Tomorrow we need to discuss Continentality and how the elevation of Antarctica also affects the temperature. It you’re interested, this is the temperature at the coldest place on Earth, Vostok, live!

Click for Vostok, Antarctica Forecast

Then onto seasons and that will really mess with your minds! 😉 It is nearly twenty hours of daylight at the moment in Spring-time Antarctica, check out the British Halley webcam.

After coming back from Ilkeston with year 11, I marked your Dry Valley’s work. Some great pieces 🙂 , and I liked how everyone noted their sources; but please remember that researched work needs to be in your own words, not just cut and pasted, this is highly important for your coursework.

Finally, what shall we call our new friend?

This entry was posted in Extreme Environments, Lesson evaluations. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. Posted October 9, 2006 at 8:20 pm | Permalink


  2. Posted October 9, 2006 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like a great lesson – why not get them to download this GEOCAST to their Video IPods http://higher.geocasts.org/Energy%20Receipt%20with%20Latitude.m4v or this MP3 to their phone or MP3 players for howework? http://higher.geocasts.org/energy.mp3

  3. Posted October 9, 2006 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    Cheers Ollie, I’ll investigate these after a good sleep, also have an interesting idea for subverting Pingu!

  4. Posted October 10, 2006 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    I though this lesson was good. it was interesting learning about differntial heating and stuff. i thought the starter 4 10 was good 2. i thought it was also interestig how u sed that Vostok is nearly the same temperature as mars and is very hard to get to!!!!!!!!!!11

  5. Posted October 10, 2006 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    Hi Laura, thanks, it is very strange that our Planet has such extremes, though I’m sure my classroom gets colder in winter! 🙂

  6. molly
    Posted February 2, 2008 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    why is antarctica so cold? is it because of the earths tilt? OR because it snows to much?

  7. Posted February 4, 2008 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    Answer in the article above Molly 🙂

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