5 Facts We Bet You Didn't Know About Antarctica [Sponsored by Air New Zealand]

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1) If you throw boiling water into the air at about -40 degrees Fahrenheit (-40 degrees Celsius as well!), it will instantly vaporize.
At about -40 degrees Fahrenheit (same for Celsius) if boiling water is thrown into the air, most of the particles turn into steam while the rest instantly convert to small pieces of ice. This is because of a combination of the temperature and the dryness of the air. -136 degrees Fahrenheit (-93 degrees Celsius), the lowest temperature in the world, was recorded in Antarctica by satellites in 2010. This breaks the 30-year-old record of about -128.6 degrees Fahrenheit (-89.2 degrees Celsius), measured by the Vostok weather station in a nearby location.

2) Expanding sea ice effectively doubles the size of Antarctica every winter – representing the largest physical change on the planet.
Antarctica is approximately 5.4 million square miles (for perspective, the United States is 3.6 million square miles). While most of the continent is already covered in ice, the sea around Antarctica freezes every winter. The sea ice extent changes from about 386,000 square miles in summer to a massive 7.5 million square miles during the Antarctic winter.

3) Less than half a percent of the vast wilderness of Antarctica is ice free.
While almost all of the vegetation on the continent is composed of mosses, lichen, and algae, millions of years ago the continent boasted evergreen forests and a variety of animals. Some scientists hypothesize that a lake hidden deep beneath the Antarctic surface may still house life, giving scientists hope of finding life on other inhospitable planets.

4) Antarctic is actually classified as a desert!
Despite its snowy climate, Antarctica is classified as a desert because so little moisture falls from the sky. In fact, more rain falls in the Sahara desert than precipitation/snow falls in the inner regions of Antarctica. And like sand storms in a desert, colossal blizzards with 200 mph winds pick up snow from the ground creating white sheets in the air.

5) Melting Antarctica's ice sheets would raise oceans around the world by 200 to 210 feet (60 to 65 meters).
In the last 100 years the earth's temperature has increased about half a degree Celsius. According to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the sea level has risen 6 to 8 inches in the last 100 years. As the rising temperatures melt ice shelves (floating glaciers), the ice that is on the land flows into the sea much more rapidly, displacing water and raising the sea level further.

This year Air New Zealand sent two lucky environmental enthusiasts, Marli & Michael, to join National Geographic photographer Jason Edwards on an epic adventure to share the wonders of the Antarctic frozen continent with the world. Check out the journey and head to airnewzealand.com for the testimonials and pictures from the adventure, as well as to learn more about Air New Zealand's partnership with Antarctica New Zealand and the New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute (NZARI).

March 24, 2014 - 3:00pm
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