Ice sculpted, Antarctica – Yann Arthus-Bertrand Photography
At the summit of this extinct volcano (2 681 m), the snow and the ice are sculpted by the Katabatic winds that blow in the transantarctic mountains. These winds which are extremely cold and violent start at the summit of the ice cap, and gather speed (up to 300 km/h) as they go down the slopes to the coasts. Because they are climatically isolated, Antarctica is covered in a 33 million km3 ice cap that is 4 700 m thick in places. The ice is so heavy that the continent is partly beneath sea level. This iced shell is – with the Southern ocean and the masses of water that flow to the Northern hemisphere -our planet’s largest system of climate control. Antarctica is a land of paradox : no other land has as much freshwater (70% of the Earth’s reserves) but as it is frozen, it is unavailable and this makes it the world’s most arid continent.