Polar Region Facts



  • Winter weather is cold because days are too short to give much heat. The Sun always rakes across the ground at a low angle, spreading out its warmth.
  • The coldest places in the world are the North and South Poles. Here the Sun shines at a low angle even in summer, and winter nights last almost 24 hrs.
  • The average temperature at Polus Nedostupnosti (Pole of Cold) in Antarctica is —58°C.
  • The coldest temperature ever recorded was —89.2°C at Vostok in Antarctica on July 21, 1983.
  • The interiors of the continents can get very cold in winter because land loses heat rapidly.
  • When air cools below freezing point (0°C), water vapor in the air may freeze without turning first to dew. It covers the ground with white crystals of ice or frost.
  • Fern frost is feathery tails of ice that form on cold glass as dew drops freeze bit by bit.
  • Hoar frost is spiky needles of frost that form when damp air blows over very cold surfaces and freezes onto them.
  • Rime is a thick coating of ice that forms when drops of water in clouds and fogs stay liquid well below freezing point. The drops freeze hard when they touch a surface.
  • Black ice forms when rain falls on a very cold road.
  • ‘Periglacial’ is used to describe conditions next to the ice in the Ice Ages. It now means similar conditions found today.
  • Periglacial conditions are found on the tundra of northern Canada and Siberia and on nunataks, which are the hills that protrude above ice sheets and glaciers.
  • In periglacial areas ice only melts in spring at the surface. Deep down under the ground it remains permanently frozen permafrost.
  • When the ground above the permafrost melts, the soil twists into buckled layers called involutions. Shaping the land
  • When frozen soil melts it becomes so fluid that it can creep easily down slopes, creating large tongues and terraces.
  • Frost heave is the process when frost pushes stones to the surface as the ground freezes.
  • After frost heave, large stones roll down leaving the fine stones on top. This creates intricate patterns on the ground.
  • On flat ground, quilt-like patterns are called stone polygons. On slopes, they stretch into stone stripes.
  • Pingos are mounds of soil with a core of ice. They are created when groundwater freezes beneath a lake.
  • The world’s coldest places are at the Poles in the Arctic and Antarctic, and high up mountains.
  • Only small animals such as ice worms and insects can stand the extreme polar cold all year round.
  • Insects like springtails can live in temperatures as low as -38°C in Antarctica, because their body fluids contain substances that do not freeze easily.
  • Birds such as penguins, snow petrels and skuas live in Antarctica. So do the leopard seals that eat penguins.
  • Polar seas are home to whales, fish and shrimp-like krill.
  • Fish of cold seas have body fluids that act like car anti-freeze to stop them freezing.
  • Mammals such as polar bears, sea lions and walruses are so well insulated against the cold with their fur and fat that they can live on the Arctic ice much of the year.
  • Many animals live on the icy tundra land in the far north of America and Asia. They include caribou, Arctic foxes and hares, and birds such as ptarmigans and snowy owls.
  • Arctic foxes and hares, ermines and ptarmigans turn white in winter to camouflage them against the snow.