The low coral islands and the high volcanic islands of the South Pacific can be divided into three regional groups: Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia. The Pacific islands cover the world’s largest geographic realm, and there is a great distance between many of the island groups.
The Pacific has a high level of ethnic diversity; there are hundreds of different languages and cultural traditions. Papua New Guinea is the largest island and is host to more than seven hundred languages. Various Pacific islands remain possessions of France, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, or the United States.
The Pacific islands are subject to natural forces such as typhoons, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, and tropical storms. Some of the islands have radiation issues because they were used as nuclear test sites by the United States, France, and Great Britain. Other environmental issues relate to deforestation and the lack of fresh water.
Antarctica is an ice-covered continent that is larger than the continents of Europe or Australia. The Southern Ocean surrounds Antarctica, which is located entirely south of 60° latitude. Antarctica’s ice sheet is more than a mile thick but does not cover the entire land surface. Extensive mountain ranges exist with volcanic peaks that have erupted in recent years. The only permanent human settlements in Antarctica are research stations.
The concept of global warming may impact the continent of Antarctica if temperatures rise and the ice sheet melts rapidly. Temperature increases in the atmosphere might be a result of an increase in greenhouse gases caused by the burning of carbon-based fossil fuels.
Ozone in the stratosphere protects the earth from ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Ozone depletion in the stratosphere can be caused by the release of industrial chemicals. A large ozone hole sometime exists above Antarctica during a seasonal increase in ozone depleting elements.