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The Effect of Latitude on Climate

Latitude, which measures the distance from the equator, has a big impact on climate too. Places near the equator get more direct sunlight, so they tend to be warmer. As you move toward the poles, it gets cooler because the sunlight spreads out over a larger area.The Tropical regions have consistently warm climates such as Tropical Wet, Tropical Wet and Dry, or Arid. Arid can be colder locations, but obviously deserts can also be hot! Temperate regions can include a wide variety of climate types. The Polar regions generally have an Ice Cap climate type. 

Latitude effect on climate graphic

The Effect of Elevation on Climate

Elevation, or how high an area is above sea level, affects the weather in different ways. When you go up in elevation, it usually gets cooler. Mountains can make one side wetter and the other drier, creating rain shadows.  The type of plants and animals you find also depends on how high or low an area is. So, elevation plays a big role in deciding what the weather and environment are like in different parts of the world. The highest elevations have a Highland Climate, but that is for extremely high elevations. Moderate elevation changes can make an area cooler or dryer too. Use the slider on the image below to observe the Plateau of Tibet that is MUCH cooler than the area around it. 

The Effect of Ocean and Wind Currents on Climate

Warm air rises and cold air sink, but the same is true of warm and cold water. Ocean currents, like moving rivers in the ocean, carry warmth from the equator to the poles, affecting temperatures near the coast. Wind currents, driven by the sun's heat, influence the movement of air around the Earth. Near the Equator, warm air rises and moves towards the poles, creating wind belts or prevailing winds that impact climate. The interaction between ocean and wind currents is crucial, as warm ocean currents can warm nearby air, influencing wind and temperature patterns.

Globe showing movement of air
Map of major wind current
Map of major ocean currents

The Effect of Large Bodies of Water on Climate

Large bodies of water, such as oceans and seas, have a significant impact on climate. Water has a high heat capacity, meaning it can absorb and release heat slowly. Coastal areas near large bodies of water experience milder and more stable temperatures compared to inland regions. During the day, water heats up more slowly than land, keeping coastal areas cooler. At night, water releases heat more gradually, preventing temperatures from dropping drastically. This moderating effect is known as the maritime influence, and it creates a more temperate climate in coastal zones. Additionally, water bodies contribute moisture to the air, influencing humidity levels and precipitation patterns in nearby areas.

Map showing climate influenced by water
The Effect of Terrain on Climate

The features of the land, known as terrain, also impact climate. Different types of terrain, such as mountains, valleys, and plains, contribute to the weather conditions. Mountains influence climate by blocking and redirecting air. Valleys can trap cooler air near the surface. Plains, being flat, allow for the easy movement of air, influencing wind patterns and temperatures. Overall, the shape and characteristics of the terrain play a crucial role in determining local and regional climate types. Use the slider below to see how the terrain of Africa influences precipitation levels. 

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