The driest place on Earth is widely considered to be the Dry Valleys, located in southeastern Antarctica. Although the continent is mainly known for being 98% covered by ice, the 1,853-square-mile (4,800-square-kilometer) Dry Valleys receive only about 2 inches (50 mm) of precipitation per year. This is thought to be partly because of mountains in the area that are so high they block out flowing ice. Another reason the Dry Valleys are the driest place on Earth is because of winds known as katabatic winds. These winds are so powerful — reaching 200 miles (322 km) per hour — that they evaporate most of the possible moisture in the area before it can settle.
More about Antarctica:
- Antarctica’s climate and conditions so closely resemble the planet Mars that scientists study the continent to try to learn more about conditions on Mars.
- An average of 5,000 scientists reside in Antarctica during its summer months. The number of residents generally drops to about 1,000 in the winter.
- About 90% of the ice on Earth is located in Antarctica.