Are the Arctic and Antarctic Deserts Deserts?
In this century, there is a growing interest in the study of polar regions, which are inhospitable areas in our planet. Despite the vastness and inaccessibility of these regions, they hold important scientific questions. Among them, the question of how and why Antarctica and Arctic deserts evolved is one that is still at the forefront of research. There are many fundamental questions to be answered and few natural landscapes on Earth have fascinated mankind as much as the polar region.
The Arctic and Antarctic deserts are both arid and cold in nature. Most of them receive only light rainfall, and some parts of the deserts even receive no precipitation at all. However, the soils in these environments are brown, slightly acidic and are associated with vegetation. Depending on the location, the vegetation may be savanna, shrub or bare rock. These are a few of the characteristics that make the arctic desert the driest in the world.
The Arctic and Antarctic deserts are also divided into two main parts. The Arctic Desert is the northernmost natural area on earth. This includes land from many nations, including Russia, Canada, and Norway. The soils are brown in color, and are ferruginous in texture. Some of the vegetation of the Arctic Desert are savanna, low shrubs of saxifrage, and polar willow. It is considered the most arid of the deserts, as its temperatures seldom rise above five degrees Celsius during the summer.
The Antarctic Desert is much more extensive than the Arctic Desert. Antarctica is almost twice the size of Australia, with a total area of 14.2 million square kilometres. East Antarctica is relatively large and solid. Its crust is up to 3.8 billion years old. West Antarctica is a patchwork of four smaller crustal blocks that are not tightly connected.
Both regions are divided by the Antarctic Convergence, a boundary that separates the continent from the waters below. This boundary is determined by ocean currents and can change its position by hundreds of kilometers each year. The convergence zone varies from 32 to 48 kilometres in width. The position of the convergence zone varies by time of year and by longitude. For example, in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, the convergence zone extends beyond the Antarctic Circle to 63 degrees north.
Antarctica is a remote, vast landmass. This region has few inhabitants. There are seals, penguins, and small seabirds. Animals such as walruses and caribou are also found in the region. While many animals have made it to Antarctica, only a few species have managed to establish themselves. A number of plant species, such as the kelp, have helped to push out invertebrates and anemones.
During the summer, the temperature of the ice zone can reach minus 50 to minus 59 degrees Celsius. During the winter, the temperature can fall to -60 degrees. At the North Pole, the average annual temperature is minus 18 degrees. Because of the density differences between the surface water of the ice zone and the surrounding seawater, the Antarctic surface water sinks and is diverted beneath warmer water masses.