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How Does Latitude Affect Climate: A Must-Read For Everyone


How Does Latitude Affect Climate

The earth boasts different climates, influenced by its shape and other factors. Some of these factors include latitude, land and water distribution, altitude, ocean currents, relief, etc.

Climate is quite a broad and crucial topic. Not because it has to do with science, but because it affects everyone on the planet.

So, in this post, we shall consider how latitude affects climate. It’s a topic for everyone, so keep reading.

How Does Latitude Affect Climate?

The movement of air in the atmosphere requires a lot of energy. It also requires energy to exchange heat and water vapor between the atmosphere and the earth. Solar radiation is the energy from the sun. But these solar radiations are not evenly distributed.

As a result, low latitudes (close to the equator) receive more energy. And high latitudes (closer to the poles) receive less. So, as the latitude increases, the sun shines with less energy.

This implies that the higher the latitude, the lower a region’s temperature. The climate of the said region would become cooler. Since the sun is not direct at the poles, the area becomes icy and cold.

However, if the sun is direct at the equator, the climate is hot and boasts high temperatures.

What Is Climate?

First, let’s begin with the definition of climate. What does climate mean? It’s the average weather condition of a place over a long time. The weather reflects the state of the atmosphere. In essence, the daily weather condition determines the climate of an area. It can last for over 30 years.

For instance, you can say that it rained yesterday in Chicago to describe its weather. But then, you can say that Chicago has 12 inches of rain per year to describe its climate. Temperature, vegetation, and amount of rainfall classify a region’s climate.

But then, keep in mind that global warming leads to the redistribution of climate. And climate change can cause a difference in temperature, rainfall, wind, or pressure in a particular area over time.

What Is Latitude?  

Latitude is the distance from either the north or south of the equator (an imaginary line separating the earth into two equal parts). Latitude is usually measured in degrees (from 0° to 90°). The equator is at 0° latitude, whereas the poles (north or south) are at 90°.

Lines of latitude are known as parallels. They are imaginary lines that run from east to west of the earth and are parallel to the equator. Each of them is 1° away from the other and measures 1° north or south of the equator.

Lines of latitude

The Arctic Circle:

This implies latitude at the extreme north. It runs at 66° 33’ north latitude. It’s about 1650 miles from the North Pole, and eight countries are on it. These include the United States, Greenland, Russia, Norway, Finland, Canada, Sweden, and Iceland.

The Tropic of Cancer:

This is at the north of the equator. It’s at the north, and the sun passes in its most vertical position at noon. It runs at 23° 30’ north latitude. And it’s the northern border for the tropical climate. However, it doesn’t have many seasonal changes because the sun is high in the sky all year.

Tropic of Cancer runs through 17 countries. These include Western Sahara, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Mexico, the Bahamas, Algeria, Nigeria, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Chad, Oman, China, India, Bangladesh, and Myanmar.

The Tropic of Capricorn:

This is where the sun passes in its most vertical position at noon. It’s at the south of the equator and runs at 23° 30’ south latitude. Plus, it’s the southern border of the tropical climate.

Furthermore, the tropic of Capricorn runs through 10 countries. These include Madagascar, Australia, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Namibia, Chile, Botswana, and Namibia.

The Antarctic Circle: 

This is at the extreme south of the main parallel of latitude. It runs at 66° 33’ south latitude and consists of part of the polar region. The Antarctic Circle only runs through the area known as Antarctica.

Types Of Climates

Tropical climate:

This covers the equator to the tropic of cancer (north) to the tropic of Capricorn (south). They consist of a high average temperature and abundant tropical vegetation. Plus, it has two seasons, the wet and dry seasons.

Examples are in the Amazon basin in Brazil, the Bahamas, and Angola.

Temperate climate:

This covers the tropic of cancer to the Arctic Circle (south) and the tropic of Capricorn to the Antarctic Circle (south). These areas have moderate temperatures and a lot of temperature differences. Also, it has four seasons: winter, summer, autumn or fall, and spring. It has cool winters and hot summers. Examples of such countries are Canada and parts of the United States.

Polar climate:

The polar climate covers areas at the Arctic Circle to the South Pole and the Antarctic Circle to the North Pole. They have cold temperatures and sparse vegetation. It usually has short summers and long, cold winters. The climate is in Alaska (the United States) and Greenland (Denmark).

Desert or dry climate:

This climate covers dry areas with mostly hot temperatures. It also has one or two seasons. Examples of such regions include Saudi Arabia and the Sahara desert.

Mediterranean climate:

This climate boasts two seasons. These include the hot and dry in summer. However, the winter is cool and wet. Examples of such places are California, central Chile, and Spain.

Effect Of Latitude On Tropical Climate

Tropical climates are usually below 25° latitude in both the south and north. They are warm throughout the year, owing to their excessive exposure to the sun. These include regions around the equator. Examples are:

  • Central America and parts of South America
  • Southern parts of Asia
  • Central Africa
  • Some part of Australia.

The sun shines directly in the tropics because it is close to the equator. It is also the reason for its excessive rainfall since the temperature leads to constant water vapor in the air. Also, it has an average temperature of the coldest month (higher or equal to 18°C).

Another thing you need to understand is that the tropical climate has three parts. These include the tropical rainforest climate, tropical wet and dry or savanna climate, and tropical monsoon climate. What differentiates them is the level of annual rainfall and rainfall level in the driest month.

On the other hand, rainforest climates have high temperatures that are between 21°C to 30°C. They almost have no drought period. The monsoon climate has an average annual temperature of about 27°C and a short dry season. The savanna has a temperature that is between 20 °C to 30 °C and a long dry season.

Effect Of Latitude On Desert Climate

Most places with deserts climate are close to 30° north and south latitudes. And this is where the heated air from the equator comes down. The air is heavy and evaporates large amounts of water from the land surface. It makes the climate very dry, with long periods of drought.

Desert climates are in two parts; the cold desert and hot desert climates. Cold deserts have an average temperature that is below 18°C. Also, they have hot summers but the winter periods very cold. An example is the Gobi Desert in Mongolia.

Hot deserts have an average temperature that is above 18°C. And during summer, they can heat up to 50°C during midday. But they can also drop to about 0°C at night during winter. An example is North Africa’s Sahara desert.

Effect Of Latitude On Temperate Climate

Temperate climates are in the middle latitudes between 40° to 60° north or south of the equator. It’s between the polar and the tropical regions of the earth. And it has an average temperature that is above -3°C but below 18°C.

The latitudinal position of this region influences its temperature. That is why temperate climates have specific seasonal changes, as the sun does not shine on them directly.

Effect Of Latitude On Mediterranean Climate

Mediterranean climates are on the western side of their continents. They’re also between the 30° and 45° north and south latitudes of the equator.

The surrounding sea plays a part in its climate. The latitudinal position also contributes. So, the temperate climate and the dry climate influence this one.

Effect Of Latitude On Polar Climate

The polar climate has no warm summer. They have an average temperature that is below 10 °C. The region is far from the equator. So the summer is cool, but the winter is cold. They’re at about 66.5° north and south latitude to the north and south poles.

Furthermore, the region has at least a day in winter when the sun doesn’t rise. They also have at least a day in summer when the sun shines for the whole day. It’s because of the distance of the region from the equator.


Latitude is one of the main factors affecting climate. So, it’s a subject matter worth discussing. It will also help you understand the vegetation and temperature in various places.

Latitude can help you determine dates and times. A proper understanding of latitude will also enable you to locate places quickly, including features on the surface of planet earth.

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