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With 98% of its surface covered with various forms of snow and ice, it's no wonder that the continent of Antarctica attracts "cold weather" scientists from all over the world. Basically, Antarctica is a snow and ice "factory" with ice depths on the Polar Plateau reaching 15,000 feet (the continent's average ice thickness is 7,000 feet). Thus, one of Antarctica's most important resources is its ice. It is said that Antarctica's ice accounts for 70% of the world's fresh water. Some people have considered towing icebergs from Antarctica to parts of the world in need of fresh water.
As strange as it sounds, however, Antarctica is essentially a desert. The average yearly total precipitation is about two inches. So, where did all this snow and ice come from? The answer lies in Antarctica's unique location at the bottom of the world and the unique weather conditions that exist there.
Thin, white feathery or wispy clouds, usually separated or detached. Highest of all clouds in tropopause, they form at 30,000 feet or more in the sky. They are composed primarily of ice crystals.
Flat-based, billowing clouds with vertical doming. Often the top of cumulus clouds have a "cauliflower-like" appearance. Cumulus clouds are most prominent during the summer months.
Thin, layered clouds, often occurring as continuous or rippled sheets which cover large portions of the sky. Stratus clouds are frequently gray and thick.
Other common cloud types
"Antarctica is the coldest, highest, windiest, driest, and iciest continent on earth"
Coldest: -129° F at Vostok, July 21, 1983 (World low temperature record.)
Highest: Average elevation 8200 feet (2500 meters).
Windiest: Gales reach 200 mph on Commonwealth Bay, George V coast.
Driest: Average precipitation is less than 2 inches per year.
Iciest: The thickest ice found is in Wilkes Land, where it reaches a depth of 15,669 feet (4,776 meters ).
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