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Antarctica is divided by the transantarctic mountains into east antarctica and west antarctica

By Elizabeth Marshall
Published in Nature
February 02, 2024
2 min read
Antarctica is divided by the transantarctic mountains into east antarctica and west antarctica

Antarctica: Divided by the Transantarctic Mountains


Antarctica, the southernmost continent on Earth, is a land of breathtaking beauty and extreme conditions. Physically, this icy continent is divided by the Transantarctic Mountains into two distinct regions known as East Antarctica and West Antarctica1^. These mountain ranges stretch across the entire continent, defining its geography and influencing its climate.

Transantarctic Mountains: A Natural Barrier

The Transantarctic Mountains form a massive, continuous mountain range that stretches for over 3,500 kilometers across Antarctica1^. Running from the Weddell Sea in the east to the Ross Sea in the west, this towering range acts as a natural barrier, physically separating the continent into two distinct parts.

East Antarctica: The Greater Landmass

Covering approximately two-thirds of the continent, East Antarctica is the larger region of the two1^. It is situated primarily in the eastern hemisphere, extending from the Transantarctic Mountains towards the coast. East Antarctica boasts vast ice sheets and some of the highest elevations found on the continent. In fact, at Dome Fuji, one of the highest peaks, the temperature can drop to a bone-chilling -93.2 degrees Celsius (-135.8 degrees Fahrenheit) during the winter months.

West Antarctica: The Smaller Peninsula

Although smaller in size compared to the eastern counterpart, West Antarctica still carries immense importance in Antarctica’s geography1^. Covering approximately one-third of the continent, this region is situated mostly in the western hemisphere and is characterized by a series of elongated mountain ranges, including the Ellsworth Mountains and the Antarctic Peninsula.

Transantarctic Mountains

Climate Differences

The division of Antarctica by the Transantarctic Mountains also has significant implications for the climate in each region. Due to its higher altitude, East Antarctica experiences extremely cold and dry conditions, with temperatures dropping below freezing for most of the year1^. In contrast, West Antarctica generally experiences milder temperatures and higher levels of precipitation, making it a relatively more habitable region.

The Impact on Research and Exploration

The division of Antarctica into East Antarctica and West Antarctica plays a crucial role in scientific research and exploration on the continent. Each region presents unique challenges and opportunities for researchers studying various disciplines such as glaciology, climate science, and marine biology. The Transantarctic Mountains, acting as a natural border, can influence the logistics and accessibility of remote research stations and fieldwork deployments.


The division of Antarctica into East Antarctica and West Antarctica by the Transantarctic Mountains shapes the continent’s geography, climate, and research possibilities. As one of the most extraordinary and pristine environments on our planet, understanding and appreciating this division is essential for unraveling the many mysteries and secrets that Antarctica holds.

  1. Wikipedia - Geography of Antarctica




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Elizabeth Marshall

Elizabeth Marshall

Facts explorer

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