Views of Antarctica
Composite Pictures of Unusual Perspectives
It can be difficult to envisage a whole continent and its place in the world. Here are some composite pictures that give a good impression of Antarctica in three dimensions with and without ice and in relation to how it fits into the globe.
Composite image of Antarctica and southern hemisphere South America (left), Africa (top right) and Australia / New Zealand (lower right). The earth could never be viewed in this way as in reality one half of this view would be in daylight and the other in darkness
The outline of Antarctica is frequently different in different images as some represent the continent during the summer, some during the winter and some in between. At its greatest extent the winter sea-ice just about doubles the size of Antarctica.
Even in the summer the shape of the coast-line varies as very little of it consists of rock leading down to the sea. Much of the edge of Antarctica is an ice-edge of constantly flowing and ebbing glaciers, ice shelves and sea-ice that sometimes may break out each year, sometimes not for a few years. A bit of a map-makers night-mare in fact. No sooner is a map made, than it's out of date.For other views of Antarctica (and the rest of the world too) take a look at the excellent Earth viewer, this allows you to choose your position above the earth according to longitude and latitude and even the day and time of year to follow where the sun goes with the seasons.
Bedrock - Under the Ice
The bedrock of Antarctica under
the ice, green to brown areas are above sea level,
blue to purple are below
Picture: Paul V. Heinrich, used under Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike licence 3.0 Unported
Antarctica as it would be seen
if the ice were removed, this is the amount of the
bedrock that is above sea level, if the ice were
removed, the rock would slowly spring back again
as the weight of the ice is pushing the rock further
into the planets surface.
Picture: Memtgs, used under Creative Commons Attribution licence 3.0 Unported
Antarctica under the icesheets - video from NASA
It is estimated that the land is pushed down about 1,625ft (500m) by the ice. The average depth of the ice sheet is more than 2,000ft (6,600ft).
3-D computer generated images taken from hundreds of data points. I particularly like these as they give a feeling for the height of Antarctica. The average height of the continent is 2,400m (8,000ft) as against the next highest which is Asia at an average of 900m (3,000ft).
The high dome of East Antarctica is clearly seen as is the elevation of the South Pole and the formidable barrier presented by the Trans-Antarctic Mountains which usually just appear as a diffuse line running across maps as seen from above.
Sea Ice Cover
The overall area of Antarctica including sea-ice cover doubles in size between the minimum and maximum extents. This sea-ice (along with extreme cold, storms and darkness) is what shuts Antarctica off from the outside world during the winter months.
Unless otherwise noted, pictures used courtesy of NASA