How Does Latitude Affect Climate?

There is a relationship between latitude and temperature around the world, as temperatures are typically warmer approaching the Equator and cooler approaching the Poles. There are variations, though, as other factors such as elevation, ocean currents, and precipitation affect climate patterns.

If you happen to believe the Earth is flat, you’ll have a difficult time explaining global climate variations and seasons. If you accept the fact the Earth is a sphere, however, it’s no problem. The variations are the result of two phenomena: the orbit of the Earth around the sun and the tilt of the Earth’s axis relative to the orbit.

The tilt is the primary reason that different latitudes experience different weather patterns or climates. Outer planets, such as Saturn, have similar tilts, but they don’t experience latitude-dependent climate variations in the same way because they aren’t as close to the sun.

What Are Latitude and Longitude?

Latitude and Longitude are the units that represent the coordinates in the geographic coordinate system. To make a search, use the name of a place, city, state, or address, or click the location on the map to find lat long coordinates.

Just like every actual house has its address (which includes the number, the name of the street, city, etc), every single point on the surface of the earth can be specified by the latitude and longitude coordinates. Therefore, by using latitude and longitude we can specify virtually any point on earth.

The latitude has the symbol of phi, and it shows the angle between the straight line in a certain point and the equatorial plane. The latitude is specified by degrees, starting from 0° and ending up at 90° to both sides of the equator, making latitudes Northern and Southern. The equator is the line with 0° latitude.

The longitude has the symbol of lambda and is another angular coordinate defining the position of a point on the surface of the earth. The longitude is defined as an angle pointing west or east from the Greenwich Meridian, which is taken as the Prime Meridian. The longitude can be defined as maximum as 180° east from the Prime Meridian and 180° west from the Prime Meridian.

Both latitude and longitude are measured in degrees, which are in turn divided into minutes and seconds. For example, the tropical zone which is located to the south and to the north of the Equator is determined by the limits of 23°26’13.7” S and 23°26’13.7” N.

How Does Latitude Affect the Temperature and Climate of The World?

As latitude increases, the sun shines more obliquely and provides less warming energy. The equator always faces the sun directly, so the climate is warm year-round, with the average day and night temperature hovering between 12.5 and 14.3 degrees Celsius (54.5- and 57.7-degrees Fahrenheit).

At the poles, however, winter and summer temperatures show a wider variation. The average temperature in the Arctic varies from zero C (32 F) in summer to -40 C (-40 F) in winter, while in the Antarctic, the temperature varies from -28.2 C (-18 F) in summer to -60 C (-76 F) in winter.

The Antarctic is colder for two reasons: it’s a landmass, and it’s at a higher elevation than the Arctic.

Latitude and Temperature:

  • At the equator, the Sun’s rays are most direct. This is where temperatures are highest.
  • At higher latitudes, the Sun’s rays are less direct. The farther an area is from the equator, the lower its temperature.
  • At the poles, the Sun’s rays are least direct. Much of the area is covered with ice and snow, which reflect a lot of sunlight. Temperatures are lowest here.

How Much Does Latitude Change Temperature?

Austin, Texas; Wichita, Kansas; Fargo, North Dakota; and Thompson, Manitoba in Canada all roughly lie on the 97° west longitude line. But they run the length of North America from 30°N in Austin, to 38°N in Wichita, to 47°N in Fargo, and to 56°N in Thompson. Other factors affect their climate, but all four cities are inland.

LocationJuly Avg. HighJuly Avg. LowJanuary Avg. HighJanuary Avg. Low
Austin96746241
Wichita93704322
Fargo8260180
Thompson7348-3-20

The table above shows the variation in high and low temperatures that are due primarily to latitude. Which latitude would you prefer?

Summary:

  • Latitude affects the amount of solar radiation a place receives.
  • The amount of solar radiation a place receives is greatest at the equator and lessens toward the poles.
  • Latitude is not the only factor that determines the temperature of a region.

Three Climatic Zones

Average temperatures cool with increasing latitude, producing well-defined climatic zones on the planet.

  • The Tropic Zones extend from the equator north to the Tropic of Cancer at 23.5 degrees north to the Tropic of Capricorn at 23.5 degrees south. This is a region of generally warm temperatures and lush tropical vegetation.
  • The Temperate Zones extend from the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn to the Arctic and Antarctic Circles, which are located at 66.5 degrees north and south latitude respectively. These regions experience moderate temperatures and large temperature variations. The summers are hot and the winters cool.
  • The Polar Zones extend from the Arctic and Antarctic Circles to the poles. In these regions, temperatures are cold and vegetation sparse.