Temperatures at the South Pole are much lower than at the North Pole due to its high altitude and more continental climate remote from the oceans. The average annual temperature at the South Pole is -49.3°C (-56°F). The highest temperature recorded at South Pole Station during summer is −12.3°C (9.9°F) (on Christmas Day 2011), and the lowest is −82.8°C (−117.0°F) during winter. The sun reaches a maximum elevation of 23.5° above the horizon at midsummer. Snow reflects much of the sunlight reaching the surface of the Polar Plateau.
The air humidity at the South Pole is close to zero, making the environment an extreme polar desert. Snowfall at the Pole is minimal, with annual precipitation of only 7 cm. Persistent winds averaging between 5-15 knots blow the snow so that it tends to accumulate around structures, which explains why station buildings are often partially buried even though the actual snowfall is low.
Extreme but relatively stable weather conditions such as those found at the Pole are suitable for monitoring of global change. Understanding the southern polar climate is essential for identifying the role Antarctica plays in influencing global weather systems and climate patterns.