The southern hemisphere is much less inhabited and has much less land than the north. Only two continents exist exclusively in the south, Antarctic and Australia.
Antarctica, at very bottom of the world, is a continent surrounded by an ocean. Bigger than the combined area of the U.S. and Mexico, it is almost completely covered by the world’s two largest ice sheets that together could raise sea level by about 230 feet if they melted. Parts of this southern continent, along the Antarctic Peninsula, are warming faster than anywhere on Earth, dramatically changing the climate there, altering ecosystems and threatening the Adélie penguin with regional extinction.
Australia, the other exclusively southern continent, is suffering a severe drought. Global warming, which scientists say will cause regional drying worldwide, could be responsible for this economically disastrous period of reduced rainfall. If so, it might not be the first time humans have altered Australia’s climate. Some researchers say that when aborigines first arrived on this continent 50,000 years ago they destroyed massive amounts of vegetation through burning. In the process, they forced into extinction a menagerie of huge, strange “megafauna,” including a twenty-foot-long lizard and many giant species of marsupials. The changes may also have caused the continent to become appreciably drier.
- Listen to Australia's Lost Giants, Dan’s documentary on megafauna and the drying of Australia.
- Listen to Meltdown Dan’s documentary on how global warming is threatening the world’s ice.
- Visit Dan’s Award-winning website on the Antarctic Peninsula