South Pole


December 7, 2021

The South Pole is the southernmost point on the Earth's surface, diametrically opposite the North Pole. It is located on the Antarctic continent. The South Pole is sometimes referred to as "geographic" to distinguish it from the magnetic South Pole. Although both located in Antarctica, the two points do not coincide because the location of the magnetic South Pole follows variations in the Earth's magnetic field.



Generally speaking, the geographic South Pole is defined as one of the two points where the Earth's axis of rotation intersects its surface (the other being the North Pole). However, this definition is not completely precise because the axis of rotation is subject to small variations and the exact position of this intersection varies by a few meters over time; this polar movement is made up of two quasi-periodic components lasting several hundred days (the Chandler oscillation) and a slight gradual drift, mainly towards the east. From the point of view of geographic coordinates, the South Pole can be simply defined as the point located at 90 ° South latitude, its longitude being indeterminate and irrelevant. At the South Pole, all directions point north. The geographic South Pole is located on the Antarctic continent, on an icy plateau without particular characteristics at an altitude of 2,835 m, about 360 km from the Queen Maud range and 1,300 km from the nearest sea, at McMurdo Strait. The ice sheet would be 2,700 m thick at the South Pole: the land surface under the ice is therefore close to sea level. The polar ice cap moves about 10 meters per year in a direction between 37 ° and 40 ° W, towards the Weddell Sea. The relative position of the Amundsen-Scott station with respect to the South Pole changes over time. The location of the geographic South Pole is indicated by a small sign and a stake in the ice, repositioned each year in the New Year to compensate for glacial drift. The sign mentions the dates of arrival at the pole of Roald Amundsen and Robert Scott, as well as the altitude of 2,835 m. Not far from there is an area called the “Ceremonial South Pole”, created to meet possible photographic needs. It consists of a metallic sphere placed on a base and surrounded by the flags of the signatory countries of the Antarctic Treaty. This ceremonial marker is moved every two to three years in order to maintain a minimum walking distance from the geographic South Pole.


During the southern winter, the South Pole is plunged into polar night. During the summer, the Sun (although continuously above the horizon) is always low in the sky. In addition, most of the light that reaches the surface is reflected by snow. This absence of heat from the Sun combined with the high altitude of the place (over 2,800 m above sea level) make the South Pole one of the coldest places on Earth (it is not, however, the coldest in the southern hemisphere: regions of Antarctica located at a higher altitude and at a greater distance from the ocean, such as Vostok, have an even colder climate). In the middle of the austral summer, at the end of December and the beginning of January, when the sun reaches its maximum height of 23.4368 °, the average temperature of the South Pole reaches about −25 ° C. As the Sun passes above or below the horizon, the average is −45 ° C. In the middle of winter, the temperature remains constant and around −65 ° C. The heat record, measured at the Amundsen-Scott base, stands at −12.3 ° C (December 25, 2011), the cold record at −82.8 ° C (June 23, 1982). The climate of the South Pole is desert and the place receives only

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