As Antarctica is in the Southern Hemisphere, summer occurs from December to February and winter falls between June and August. The Antarctic is only accessible during the warmer months – generally between December and March – when the sea ice melts enough for expedition vessels to cruise through Antarctica's waters.
The warmest month in Antarctica is January. Coastal areas experience milder weather, with summer temperatures generally reaching a maximum of 5° to 15°C (41 to 59°F), with long periods of sunlight. Due to its polar position, it can stay light all day long. Around the time of the summer solstice, some areas record 24 hours of sunlight each day. So, if you're travelling in summer, perhaps pack an eye mask for sleeping.
On the west coast of the continent (the Pacific Ocean side), the temperature reaches above 0°C (32°F) for three to four months during summer and rarely falls below -10°C (-14°F) during winter. On the east coast of the Antarctic Peninsula (the Indian Ocean side), it's much colder, with average temperatures sitting at 0°C for a month at most and winter temperatures ranging from -5°C to -25°C (23 to -13°F). In winter, average temperatures are usually between -10°C and -30°C (14 to -20°F) near the coast, falling to below -60°C (-76°F) on the high interior plateau, with long periods of constant darkness. The coldest temperature ever recorded on earth was in Antarctica in 1983, with -89.2°C (-128.6°F) at Soviet Vostok Station in inland Princess Elizabeth Land. Severe low temperatures vary with latitude, elevation and distance from the ocean.
This weather plays a major role in any breathtaking experience in Antarctica. And don't fear – when you travel on an Intrepid Antarctic tour you'll be equipped with warm gear and have a heated vessel to keep cosy on during your adventure.
Why is Antarctica called a desert?
Usually, any place on earth that receives less than 250 mm of rainfall each year is classified as a desert, because without enough rainfall the land won't have enough vegetation cover to support human life. Antarctica receives, on average, around 160 mm of rainfall yearly, with coastal regions and the Antarctic Peninsula receiving more than the high interior. Most of Antarctica's precipitation falls as snow due to its low temperatures, but some rainfall is recorded along the coast, especially in summer. That's why Antarctica is recognised as a polar desert!
Our tours in Antarctica