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How cold is the Antarctic?

Achievement objectives

In a meaningful context, students will be able to:

  • To explain the meaning of negative numbers. [N4.1]
  • Communicate features in measurement data. [S4.3]
  • Report the distinctive features of data displays [S4.5]
  • Sketch and interpret graphs which represent everyday situations [A5.3]

Mathematics in the New Zealand Curriculum

Interesting facts About Antarctica

Antarctica is the coldest place on earth. It is also the windiest, driest, and highest continent.

The South Pole is not the coldest place in Antarctica.
The coldest temperature recorded in Antarctica was -89.6°C at Vostok station in 1983.
The average winter temperature at the South Pole is about -49°C. Your home freezer is only about -15°C. The wind chill factor means that it can feel much colder.
The lowest temperature ever recorded at the South Pole was – 82.8°C on the 23 June 1982.
It is warmer on the coast. The warmest temperature ever recorded in Antarctica was 15°C on 5 June 1974 at Vanda station.

Scott Base

Scott Base is New Zealand‘s permanent Antarctic base.
The coldest temperature recorded at Scott Base was -57.0°C on 25 September 1968 and the warmest temperature was 6.8°C on 8 January 1970.

Your task:

This table below shows the average monthly temperatures for Wellington and Scott Base.

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Wellington 16.9 17.1 15.8 13.8 11.5 9.5 8.8 9.2 10.6 12.0 13.4 15.3
Scott Base -4.5 -11.4 -20.5 -24.0 -25.6 -26.0 -28.3 -29.7 -28.1 -21.3 -11.4 -4.8

Write a report to answer the question: “How cold is the Antarctic?”

In your report:

  • Compare the temperatures of Wellington and Scott Base throughout the year.
  • Draw a graph of the mean monthly temperatures at Scott Base and Wellington on one set of axes. Use an appropriate scale.
  • Write a conclusion to explain how cold it is in the Antarctic.

Resource prepared by Lesley Mackintosh
RSNZ Teacher Fellow 2001, NIWA

Research subject: Antarctica