From the thin air of Mount Everest to the intense pressure of the Challenger Deep, Earth is full of amazing extremes!Record-setting extremes are always being updated. Scientists and explorers discover new materials and refine their measuring methods, upsetting our ideas of "biggest" or "oldest." Weather patterns set new records, identifying new locations for "wettest" or "driest." The dynamic activity of Earth itself—our rifting and shifting tectonic plates—redefines "highest" and "lowest."Follow this GeoStory to learn about Earth's extremes, from highest and lowest, to hottest and coldest!
According to the GeoStory, either Mount Everest, Nepal, or Mauna Kea, Hawaii, may be considered the “world’s tallest mountain.” Only the Challenger Deep, however, is considered the “world’s deepest trench.” Why?
Scientists have long known that the Nile River’s source lies in the Ethiopian highlands, thousands of kilometers south of its mouth in the Mediterranean Sea. However, they still debate the length of the Nile. Why?
The GeoStory identifies the province of Xinjiang, China, as the place farthest from the ocean. It is a terrestrial “pole of inaccessibility.” The oceanic “pole of inaccessibility” is the place in the ocean that is farthest from land. Look at a world map. Where do you think the oceanic pole of inaccessibility lies?
According to the GeoStory, the world’s southernmost point of land is the South Pole. The world’s northernmost point of land is Kaffeklubben Island—not the North Pole! Why do you think the North Pole is not the most northern point of land on Earth?
One of the Earth’s newest island is Niijima, created by the eruption of underwater volcanoes in the Pacific Ocean. Look at our map of volcanic eruptions around the world. Where else do you think new volcanic islands could be created?
According to the GeoStory, many of Earth’s extremes are constantly being updated by scientific discoveries and the Earth itself. Of the 20 “extremes” in the GeoStory, which ones do you think might be updated soon? Which ones do you think are unlikely to change?
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry basin Noun
a dip or depression in the surface of the land or ocean floor.
Encyclopedic Entry: basin cave Noun
underground chamber that opens to the surface. Cave entrances can be on land or in water.
study of the Earth's atmosphere.
one of the seven main land masses on Earth.
Encyclopedic Entry: continent desert Noun
area of land that receives no more than 25 centimeters (10 inches) of precipitation a year.
Encyclopedic Entry: desert elevation Noun
height above or below sea level.
Encyclopedic Entry: elevation explorer Noun
person who studies unknown areas.
study of the physical history of the Earth, its composition, its structure, and the processes that form and change it.
mass of ice that moves slowly over land.
Encyclopedic Entry: glacier ice sheet Noun
thick layer of glacial ice that covers a large area of land.
Encyclopedic Entry: ice sheet indigenous Adjective
native to or characteristic of a specific place.
body of land surrounded by water.
Encyclopedic Entry: island karst Noun
landscape made of limestone.
Encyclopedic Entry: karst lake Noun
body of water surrounded by land.
the geographic features of a region.
Encyclopedic Entry: landscape meteorite Noun
type of rock that has crashed into Earth from outside the atmosphere.
Encyclopedic Entry: meteorite meteorology Noun
study of weather and atmosphere.
Encyclopedic Entry: meteorology mineral Noun
inorganic material that has a characteristic chemical composition and specific crystal structure.
place where a river empties its water. Usually rivers enter another body of water at their mouths.
Encyclopedic Entry: mouth North Pole Noun
fixed point that, along with the South Pole, forms the axis on which the Earth spins.
Encyclopedic Entry: North Pole pole of inaccessibility Noun
place that is challenging to reach due to its remote access to geographical features that could provide access, such as the ocean.
Encyclopedic Entry: rain rift valley Noun
depression in the ground caused by the Earth's crust spreading apart.
Encyclopedic Entry: rift valley river Noun
large stream of flowing fresh water.
Encyclopedic Entry: river sandbar Noun
underwater or low-lying mound of sand formed by tides, waves, or currents.
beginning of a stream, river, or other flow of water.
Encyclopedic Entry: source South Pole Noun
fixed point that, along with the North Pole, forms the axis on which the Earth spins.
Encyclopedic Entry: South Pole subduction Noun
process of one tectonic plate melting or going beneath another.
small submarine used for research and exploration.
tectonic activity Noun
movement of tectonic plates resulting in geologic activity such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.
degree of hotness or coldness measured by a thermometer with a numerical scale.
Encyclopedic Entry: temperature tributary Noun
stream that feeds, or flows, into a larger stream.
Encyclopedic Entry: tributary volcanic eruption Noun
activity that includes a discharge of gas, ash, or lava from a volcano.
entire river system or an area drained by a river and its tributaries.
Encyclopedic Entry: watershed zircon Noun
(zirconium silicate) hard, durable mineral containing zirconium, silicon, and oxygen.