Antarctica, also called the Antarctic or Antarctic Continent, is a continent that surrounds the South Pole. The most common definition includes as Antarctica the territories south of parallel 6.
It is the highest continent on Earth, with an average height of 2,000 meters above sea level (masl). It houses about 80% of the planet’s fresh water. It is also the continent with the lowest average humidity on Earth, the lowest average temperature and the elevation above the highest average sea level.
0º S, which coincides with the area under the Antarctic Treaty. Paying more attention to physical geography, the limit would be the Antarctic Convergence, including, for example, the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands (near the American continent). It has an almost circular shape of 4,500 km in diameter and has two pronounced entrances that form a narrow peninsula in the form of an “S”, projected on the southern tip of South America.
Mount Erebus is an active Antarctic volcano located on the east coast of Ross Island. Its elevation is 3,794 meters above sea level. The highest point on the continent is the Vinson Massif, with 4,892 meters above sea level.
Most of Antarctica is covered by a gigantic inlandsis (shell or ice sheet); the average thickness of the ice that covers the continent is 2,500 m; the maximum recorded thickness is 4,776 m, in the Adelia Land (69 ° 54′S 135 ° 12′E, 135.2), which is equivalent to almost 5 km of ice over some places in the rocky structure of Antarctica. The inlandsis or glacial shell of Antarctica corresponds approximately 90% of the cryosphere of planet Earth.
In certain areas, the glacial shell exceeds the boundaries of the continent, forming extensive barriers over the great bays of the Antarctic Glacier Ocean. The most important are the Ross ice barrier, the Ronne barrier, the Filchner barrier and the Larsen A barrier (the Larsen B ice barrier literally melted in 2002 due to global warming). In certain contact areas of the outer boundary of the aforementioned barriers, relatively warm surface ocean water zones, called polynias, are formed. This phenomenon is due to the emergence of the warm currents that submerge in the Antarctic Convergence, but which, when colliding with the barriers, are forced to resurface. Of the polynias, the best known is the one located in the Weddell Sea.