How Does Latitude Affect Climate?

Latitude affects climate by influencing the intensity of the sun in a region. The angle and duration of the sun’s energy determine surface temperature so that higher latitudes receive less heat, but lower latitudes closer to the equator receive significantly more heat.

Based on latitude, the Earth is divided into three general climate zones: artic zones, tropic zones and temperate zones. The arctic zones tend to be snow – and ice – covered year-round though they often receive no more precipitation than deserts. The tropic zone, on both sides of the equator, receives the most sunlight and generally experiences warm weather and seasonal rainfall. The temperate zone, between the arctic and tropical zones, has the most diversity of weather.

Besides latitude, many other factors affect climate, including the nearness of land to bodies of water, prevailing global wind patterns and the elevation of the land. What covers the land on the Earth’s surface also plays a role, as heavily vegetated areas absorb sunlight while areas like polar ice reflect it. The general climate zones are broken into sub-climates, which include high-latitude polar ice cap, sub-arctic and tundra, middle-latitude Mediterranean, maritime and steppe and low-latitude tropical savannas and rain forests. Some sub-climates, such as deserts, occur at various latitudes as they have more to do with precipitation than intensity of sunlight.