DRY valleys Of Antarctica

The Dry Valleys are the largest area on Antarctica not covered by ice. Approximately 98 percent of the continent is covered by ice, but the Dry Valleys, located near McMurdo Sound on the side of the continent closest to New Zealand, have a cold desert climate and receive only four inches (10 cm) of precipitation per year, overwhelmingly in the form of snow. The Dry Valleys are one of the coldest, driest places on Earth and are used by researchers from NASA as an analog for conditions on Mars. No vegetation grows in the Dry Valleys, although a number of unusual microbes live in the frozen soils and form cyanobac-

terial mats in places. In the Southern Hemisphere summer, glaciers in the surrounding Transantarctic Mountains release significant quantities of meltwater so that streams and lakes form over the thick permafrost in the valleys.

See also Arabian geology; Asian geology; atmosphere; climate; climate change.

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