The latitude is a geographic coordinate that indicates the North-South position of a particular point on the surface of the earth. Latitudes are angles that range from zero degrees at the equator to 90 degrees North or 90 degrees South at the poles. All latitude lines are parallel, and they run from East to West as circles, which are parallel to the equator. Together with the longitudes, latitudes are used to indicate a precise location of any feature on the earth’s surface. Temperature is inversely related to latitude. As latitude increases, the temperature falls, and vice versa. Generally, around the world, it gets warmer towards the equator and cooler towards the poles. However, other factors could influence the temperature in different locations such as altitude, precipitation, and ocean currents.
How Latitudes Affect Temperature?
Latitude is one of the primary factors that affect temperature. As one moves further away from the equator, the temperature falls because regions receive less sunlight. The reason behind this is the shape of the earth. The shape of the earth is an oblate spheroid. Thus, not all locations receive the same amount of sunlight heat or insolation (Incoming Solar Radiation). Another reason for the difference in temperatures varying with latitude is the angle of solar incidence. The rays from the sun strike the surface of the earth at different angles. At the equator, the incidence of the sun's rays are at a right angle, and this translates to more heat because they are concentrated over a small area. It also implies that less heat is lost in the atmosphere because they travel a short distance in the atmosphere. On the other hand, at the poles, the sun rays strike the surface of the earth at an acute angle. The rays from the sun are dispersed over a large area. This also implies that more heat is lost in the atmosphere because they travel long distances over the atmosphere before it hits the earth’s surface.
The tropics or the tropical zone refers to the region that surrounds the equator. To the north, it is delimited by the tropic of Cancer that corresponds to the latitude 23.436720North in the Northern Hemisphere. To the south, it is delimited by the tropic of Capricorn that corresponds to the latitude 23.436720South in the Southern Hemisphere. The tropics are comprised of regions on earth where the sun shines directly overhead once in a year. The tropical zone accounts for 40% of the surface of the earth and has 36% of the landmass.
The Temperate Zones
The temperate zones are located in the middle latitudes that range between the tropics and the polar regions. They are between the latitudes 23.50 and 66.50 on both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. The temperate zone experiences the most variation in temperature throughout the year. It also has more distinct seasonal changes compared to the tropical zone, where variation is often minimal. Temperate zones have four distinct seasons, which include summer, the hottest season, autumn, a transition season, winter, the coldest season, and spring, another transition season. In the Northern hemisphere, winter begins at the start of the year. During the first half of the year, it transitions to spring. By mid-year, it is summer which transitions into autumn in the second half of the year. By the end of the year, it transitions into winter. In the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons are reversed.
The polar zones or Polar Regions are also known as Frigid Zones, and they are areas surrounding the geographical poles. The North Pole and the South Pole lie within the polar circles, and they are the highest latitudes. The region is covered with polar ice caps, and the North Pole is on the Arctic Ocean, while the South Pole is on the continent of Antarctica. The Polar Regions cover areas north of 60 degrees north latitude in the North Pole and 60 degrees South latitude in the South Pole. The Polar Regions receive the least intense solar radiation compared to other regions of the earth because the rays from the sun strike the surface in this region is at an oblique angle and therefore spreading over a larger area. The sun rays in this region also travel a relatively long distance in the atmosphere where some is reflected, scattered, or absorbed. The same scenario happens in temperate zones, which cause winter to be colder compared to other seasons of the year. The Polar Regions have the highest latitude, and they are farthest from the equator. These regions receive less sunlight, and as a result, they are frigid. The snow and ice covering much of these regions reflect away the light received and contribute to the coldness in the polar.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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