Which is colder, the North Pole or the South Pole?

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Dear Tom,
Which is colder, the North Pole or the South Pole?

Jesse Thomson, Deerfield

Dear Jesse,
It’s not a contest: the South Pole is much colder than the North Pole. The explanation is a matter of geography. The North Pole is located in an ocean (mostly) surrounded by land and the South Pole is located in a continent surrounded by ocean. The North Pole is located a few feet above sea level. The elevation varies because the thickness of ice covering the ocean at the North Pole changes during course of the year. The South Pole sits at an elevation of 9,301 feet and, in general, the higher one goes, the colder it gets. Average temperatures: 32 degrees in the summer and -40 degrees in the winter at the North Pole; -18 degrees in the summer and -76 degrees in the winter at the South Pole.

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