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Our Amazing Planet: Five Earth Facts

April 1, 2024

1. The Earth Isn’t Round

No, it’s not flat, but it’s not perfectly round, either. It’s actually an ellipsoid—a slightly squashed sphere. The Earth bulges at the center and flattens at the poles due to the planet’s rotational force. The Earth’s surface is further distorted by steep mountains and deep ocean trenches.

2. The Coldest Place on Earth is Antarctica

On a clear winter night, temperatures at the East Antarctic Plateau can drop to -135.8° Fahrenheit (-93.2° Celsius). Without clouds, the surface can lose more heat into the air. The cold, dense air gathers between two domes on the plateau, producing the absolute lowest temperatures.

3. Trees Can Talk to Each Other

Unfortunately, we’re not living in Lord of the Rings’ Middle Earth, but yes, trees can communicate. Using an intricate network of underground fungi nicknamed the “Wood Wide Web,” trees can share their needs and send each other critical nutrients. The symbiotic relationship between trees and this subterranean fungal lattice allows trees to cope with changes such as seasonal stressors, disease, and the loss of neighboring species. Perhaps the phrase “wisdom of the forest” is not just a metaphor.

4. We Have Only Explored 25% of our Oceans

A better name for Planet Earth is “Planet Ocean”—the ocean covers around 70% of the Earth’s surface. As of 2023, only 24.9% of the global seafloor has been mapped. And, as the average ocean depth is 12,080 feet (3,682 meters), there is also a large amount of the water column that has yet to be explored. Scientists estimate that roughly two-thirds of the species in the ocean have yet to be discovered or officially described.

5. Our Planet is in Motion

The Earth’s continents rest on massive slabs of rock, called tectonic plates. Through processes such as seafloor spreading, rift valley formation, and subduction, tectonic plates are moving and changing. Millions of years ago, all the Earth’s continents were part of an enormous single landmass—Pangaea. Today, our continents move an average of roughly one inch per year.

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