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Polar Extremes

Earth’s north and south poles experience extreme seasons. For half of every year one of the Earth’s poles is tilted away from the sun, trapped in a winter of constant darkness and sub-zero temperatures. The lowest temperature ever recorded on Earth was measured during an Antarctic winter by Russian scientists who experienced -89.2 degrees Celsius! That’s colder than it is normally on Mars!

Even during the long, sunlit summers it can be very chilly. This is because the sun’s rays hit the poles at such a low angle that the heat is spread very thinly. Also, snow and ice act like a mirror, reflecting a lot of the Sun’s heat away into space.

More than 98% of all the fresh water ice on Earth can be found around the North and South Poles, locked up in the ice sheets that cover Greenland and Antarctica. However, even in these icy places many animals and even some people make their homes. People such as the Inuit of North America and the Sami of Scandinavia and Northern Russia have lived in the Arctic for thousands of years, surviving the cold by hunting or herding the wild animals around them.