What Affects Temperature?


Quick Answer

The primary factor affecting temperature is the angle of the sun. Other factors, such as elevation and wind chill, affect temperature or the perception of temperature.

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Full Answer

The angle between the sun's rays and the ground has a major impact on temperature. Temperature is higher when the sun angle is higher; a high sun angle means that the radiation and solar energy reaching Earth's surface is more concentrated. For most regions of the world, sun angles are higher during summer months. Near the equator, sun angles are high during most of the year. When the angle of the sun is lower, the energy is more diffuse, causing lower temperatures.

Elevation affects temperature, often regardless of sun angle. Pressure is lower at higher elevations, causing air to expand and cool as it rises. Air at high elevations also tends to be thinner at lower elevations, so it traps less heat. Temperature changes with elevation are responsible for the distinctive climate of alpine biomes.

Wind chill affects the perception of temperature, rather than the actual, physical temperature. Wind chill refers to a perceived cooling effect on exposed skin due to the flow of air. However, observation of a thermometer reveals that the temperature does not actually change with higher wind speeds.

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