Köppen Climate Classification - EF - Ice Cap Climate

Latitudes: High latitudes - 70–90° in both hemispheres.


Temperatures: Average monthly temperatures does not exceed freezing. The world’s coldest region.


Precipitation: Very rare. Snow. Almost everything covered in permanent ice.


Relevant geography: Predominantly found in Antarctica and inner Greenland. Also occurs at extremely high altitudes on mountains.


USDA equivalent zones: The colder end of zone 1.


Soil: The ice layer above the soil is usually thicker than the soil itself. Permafrost.


Dominant plant life of the region: Virtually no vegetation. Where soils are exposed, you may find some mosses, lichens, or microscopic photosynthesizing life forms.


Strengths/challenges for plant life: Very low precipitation, very low temps, and darkness half the year. Summer’s extended daylight is very indirect and less useful for photosynthesis.


Garden plants that are a good fit for this region: None. You will need extreme accommodations.


Dominant animal life (or its features): Limited. Usually found near the oceanic margins.


Challenges for animal raising: Very low precipitation, very low temps, and extended darkness in winter.


Animals that are a good fit for this region: None (unless you can farm polar bears).


Notes: Gale-force winds. Coldest temperature ever recorded - Costok, Antarctica −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F).



If you’re getting this climate zone report, you’re likely either a scientists at a research station or you entered the wrong location on the map.


Ice cap climates can be found in high latitudes, from around 70–90° north and south latitude. This climate is primarily found in Antarctica and inner Greenland, but can also be found at extreme altitudes on mountains, above tundra. It is the equivalent to USDA plant hardiness growing zone 1.


The ice cap climate has quite a few challenges for growing gardens. In fact, it’s the least hospitable region for human life on earth, discounting living at the bottom of the ocean or inside an active volcano.


The average monthly temperature never rises above freezing. This is the coldest region on earth. It does technically have a summer and winter, though the summer temps are colder than most places’ winters. The coldest temperature ever recorded was in your climate type. Costok, Antarctica −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F).


Precipitation is very low in your region. Because of continual freezing temperatures, even the small amount of precipitation you do get will fall as snow. This means that virtually everything is covered in a permanent layer of ice.


The soil is permafrost, and the ice layer above the soil is usually thicker than the soil itself. In the few areas with exposed soils, some mosses, lichens, or microscopic photosynthesizing life forms may be present. However, this region is, for all practical purposes, devoid of vegetation.


Most life in this region is concentrated at the oceanic margins. All you’re likely to find on the land are polar bears in the north, penguins in the south, and a handful of scientists.


The poleward nature of your climate means that you will be in darkness for much of the year. And even during your summer, when daylight can extend for months, the light is indirect and insufficient for many plants.


There are no garden plants suited to this climate. You will need extreme accommodations to grow your own food. Plan for artificial lighting, thick insulation, a heat source, and a structure that can stand up to gale force winds.


There are no conventionally raised animals that are suitable for this region.


Greenhouse Plants

Some plants, such as peppers and tomatoes, will require higher temperatures to produce fruit. Others, like greens and carrots, can be grown in cooler temperatures. Focusing on these plants is more efficient for your climate.


Another limitation to consider are pollinators, or your lack thereof. Cucumbers and other insect pollinated plants will need to be hand pollinated in order to produce food. Other plants, such as carrots, lettuce, and beets will produce food without pollinators.


Space is another limitation. With enough space, lighting, and heat, you can grow just about anything in a greenhouse. Unfortunately, our resources are rarely as abundant as we would like. In a greenhouse, space usually comes at a premium. The following varieties of plants are suitable for growing in containers, which can help manage space and will also help to limit heat loss to the ground:


•  Bean - Derby, Eureka, Mascotte, Tendercrop, Topcrop

•  Beet - Burpee’s Golden, Chiggoia, Detroit Dark Red Medium Top, Ruby Queen

•  Carrot - Danver’s Half Long, Little Finger, Nantes Half Long, Paris Market, Yaya

•  Cucumber - Bush Champion, Bush Pickle, Iznik, Parisian Gherkin, Patio Snacker, Salad Bush, Saladmore Bush, Space Master, Sugar Crunch

•  Eggplant - Dusky, Early Midnight, Gretel, Hansel, Ivory, Ophelia, Patio Baby, Pinstripe

•  Lettuce - Jack Ice, Bibb, Rouge D’Hiver, Red Leaf, Green Leaf, Oak Leaf

•  Okra - Carmine Splendor, Clemson Spineless, Jambalaya

•  Pea - Caselode, Peas-in-a-Pot, Sugar Ann

•  Pepper - Cajun Belle, Cayennetta, Cherry Stuffer, Cute Stuff Red, Gypsy, Just Sweet, Lady Belle, Mariachi, New Ace, Orange Blaze, Red Chili, Sweet Golden Baby Belle, Tangerine Dream

•  Radish - Champion, Comet, D’Avignon, Early Scarlet Globe, French Breakfast, Red Satin, Rido Red, Sparkles, White Icicle

•  Spinach - Bloomsdale, Red Cardinal, Regiment, Type, Catalina, Teton

•  Squash - Astia, Golden Scallopini Bush, Golden Zebra, Multipik, Supersett, Sweet Zuke, Zebra Zuke

•  Swiss chard - Bright Lights, Fordhook Giant, Lucullus, Peppermint

•  Tomato - Amish Paste, Atlas, Baby Boomer, Bush Big Boy, Bush Champion, Bush Early Girl, BushSteak, Cherry Jubilee, Cherry Cascade, Container Superbush, Early Resilience, Patio Paste, Patio Princess, Super Bush, Sweetheart of the Patio, Tumbler, Veranda Red


In addition to these, your kitchen herbs can also be grown in containers, as can several varieties of fruits (strawberries, blueberries, etc.).


Typically, greens will be the easiest to grow with the least investment of heat and space. As your skills and confidence grow, you can expand to other plants. Microgreens, vegetables and herbs in their sprout form, are another option, requiring only the bare minimum of care.