The North Pole and the South Pole are the coldest places on Earth. However, as similar as these areas may seem, one is much colder than the other.
So which pole is colder?
Both the North and South Poles are cold because their position at the top and bottom of the planet means that they do not receive any direct sunlight. In both places, the sun always rests low on the horizon, even in the middle of their summers. During winters, the sun is so low on the horizon that it does not rise for months.
In addition, the white surfaces of the ice and snow at the poles are highly reflective. This means that most of the sunlight energy that reaches them bounces back into space, keeping the air above those surfaces relatively cool.
While these factors make both poles downright cold, the South Pole is still significantly colder than the North Pole, according to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
The average annual temperature at the North Pole is minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 40 degrees Celsius) in winter and 32 F (0 C) in summer. In contrast, South Pole averages are much colder, with an average annual temperature of minus 76 F (minus 60 C) in winter and minus 18 F (minus 28.2 C) in summer.
Differences between the North Pole and the South Pole
The main reason the South Pole is colder than the North Pole lies in the key difference between the two. “The North Pole is an ocean and the South Pole is a continent,“.
The Arctic is an ocean surrounded by land. Antarctica is land surrounded by ocean. The water cools and warms more slowly than land, resulting in less extreme temperatures. Even when the Arctic Ocean is covered with ice, the relatively warm temperature of its waters has a moderating effect on the climate, helping the Arctic stay warmer than the Antarctic.
In addition, while the Arctic is at sea level, Antarctica is the highest continent, with an average elevation of about 2,300 meters. The higher you go up, the colder it gets.
at which of the two poles is there more ice?
At both the North and South Poles, the ice cover varies throughout the year, growing in the long, dark winters and melting in the bright, increasingly hot summers.
Most of this variation in ice cover at both the North and South Poles is due to sea ice floating, growing and melting over the ocean. Because the Arctic is almost completely surrounded by land, the sea ice that forms there is not as mobile as that in Antarctica. As a result, Arctic sea ice floes are more likely to converge, typically making Arctic sea ice 2 to 3 meters thick, compared to Antarctic sea ice, which is 1 to 2 meters thick, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).
On average, Arctic sea ice reaches a minimum extent of about 2.5 million square miles (6.5 million square km) and a maximum extent of 6 million square miles (15.6 million square km), according to the NSIDC.
In comparison, Antarctic sea ice has a smaller minimum extent of 3.1 million square miles (3.1 million square km) and a larger maximum extent of 18.8 million square miles (18.8 million square km).
Even so, there is no doubt that the South Pole has more total ice than the North Pole. The Antarctic ice sheet is up to 4.8 km thick and covers some 13.7 million square kilometers, which is equivalent to the area of the United States and Mexico combined, according to the National Science Foundation. In total, Antarctica is home to about 90% of all the world’s ice.