The Antarctic Continent An Overview of Lake Regions

Antarctica comprises more than 14x 106 km2, making it the fifth largest continent. Physically, it is divided into West Antarctica and East Antarctica by the Trans-antarctic Mountains. Antarctica is the coldest place on Earth with about 98% of the continent covered by permanent ice, which averages 2.5 km in thickness. The continent holds 70% of all the fresh water on Earth, in the form of ice. Average winter temperatures approach —75°C in the continental interior and —25 ° C along the margins. The average temperatures during summer are considerably warmer, reaching —35 and —10 °C for the same regions. Despite the subzero temperatures and thick ice sheets, numerous lakes exist on the Antarctic continent (Figure 1). Except for the subglacial lakes, Antarctic lakes are confined to the ice free coastal regions. The surface lakes range in latitude from 60°43' S (Signy Island) to 77°30' S (McMurdo Dry Valleys) (Table 1). The air temperatures and ice cover characteristics of the lakes reflect this latitudinal location with lakes at lower latitudes having thinner and shorter seasonal ice covers and higher productivity.

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