Antarctica

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Antarctica is the fifth-largest of the Earth's seven continents. It is located almost entirely south of latitude 66°33' south (the Antarctic Circle) and surrounds the South Pole. It is mostly circular in shape with a long arm-the Antarctic Peninsula-reaching out towards South America, and with two large indentations, the Ross and Weddell seas and their ice shelves.

Antarctica's total area is about 14.2 million km² (5.5 million sq miles) in summer. During the winter, Antarctica doubles in size because of the large amount of sea ice that forms at its periphery.

The true boundary of Antarctica is not the coastline of the continent itself but the Antarctic Convergence, which is a sharply defined zone in the southern extremities of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans between about latitude 48° south and latitude 60° south. At this point, the colder waters flowing north from Antarctica mix with warmer waters moving south. The Antarctic Convergence marks a definite physical difference in the oceans. For these reasons, the water surrounding the Antarctic continent is considered an ocean in itself, often referred to as the Antarctic, or Southern Ocean.


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