Dear Tom,
I realize that both the North Pole and South Pole are very cold places, but which place is colder?

Janet Resdorp, Chicago

Dear Janet,
The climates of both the Earth’s poles are brutally cold, but the South Pole is by far the coldest. Chicago winters by comparison, are practically a tropical paradise.

Average annual temperatures at the South Pole, North Pole and Chicago are: -58 degrees (F), 6 degrees, and 50 degrees. An average day in Chicago is 108 degrees warmer than an average day at the South Pole and an average day at the North Pole is 64 degrees warmer than a comparable day at the South Pole.

The great difference in temperatures at the North and South Poles is explained by two important respects: The North Pole is at sea level (or only a few feet above sea level, depending on the thickness of the ice) on an ice-covered ocean. Ocean heat rises through the ice and moderates the climate. The South Pole sits at an elevation of about 9,000 feet above sea level on Antarctica, on nearly two miles of solid ice.