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FACTORS THAT AFFECT THE TEMPERATURE OF A

PLACE
LATITUDE

You have heard that land near Equator is always hotter while round the Poles
it is terribly cold and is never warm. Why is it so? Sun shines all the year
round for 12 hours out of 24 hours at the Equator. It adds up to 6 months in a
year. The period for which Sun shines at the Poles is also 6 months. Then why
the difference? The answer lies elsewhere. It is the difference between the
heating power slanting rays by morning or the evening and the more direct
rays falling at the midday. Now the noontime Sun at poles is never more than
23 1/2° above horizon. So, its rays are always slanting and have little heating
power despite the long summer days. On the other hand at equator, Sun is
never less than 66 1/2° above the horizon. The heating power of ever directly
falling rays is great. Thus, when the Sun's ray are vertical over the Equator,
they fall at an angle of 40° at 50° N and S latitudes and at 0° at the poles. As
Earth has a spherical shape, the angle of Sun's rays on surface of the Earth
differs from one place to another and temperature changes at every latitude.
We should also remember that the angle of Sun's rays and the length of day
and night during different seasons change all the year round due to the tilt of
Earth's axis. Had it not been so, we would have no seasons and the climate in
each belt would remain the same throughout the year. Hence the temperature
of a particular place at a particular time of the year depends, on angle of Sun's
rays and the length of day and night. Both in turn depend on the latitude. On
the basis of differences in latitudes, the temperatures are high in the torrid or
the tropical zone and seasonal contrasts are lesser. In the North and South
temperate zones, Sun's rays are always slanting and seasonal variations in
temperatures are large. In the North and South Polar Regions i.e., in Frigid
Zone, Sun's rays are at a very low angle during summer and during winter
these are always below the horizon. So the temperatures in this zone are very
low. As the rays of the Sun fall vertically on the Equator, the temperature is
always high there. Places within the tropics have the mid-day Sun almost
overhead, and the temperatures remain high. Outside the tropics, the Sun's
rays reach the earth's surface obliquely, and the temperatures are
correspondingly lower. There are two similar bands of rays coming from the
Sun to two different latitudes on the earth's surface. The band of rays falling
vertically over the equatorial latitudes heats up a smaller surface, and there
the temperature is high. The band of rays falling obliquely over the temperate
latitudes heats a larger area (this is due to the curvature of the earth), and
there the temperature is low. Thus, we conclude that the temperature of places
away from the Equator (on higher latitudes) goes on decreasing according to
their distances from the Equator. Hence, the temperature of a place depends
on its latitude.

ALTITUDE OR HEIGHT ABOVE SEA LEVEL

Yet the temperature does not depend on latitude alone. Mt. Kenya in East
Africa is on the Equator. Yet its peak is always covered under snow, because it
is over 5000 meters above sea level. Bermuda islands are situated at 30° N
latitude in the Atlantic Ocean, over 3200 km from the Equator. These islands
never have snowfall. Bangalore and Chennai as well as Ludhiana and Shimla
respectively in South and North India are situated on two different but same
latitudes. Yet both Bangalore and Shimla remain cooler than Chennai and
Ludhiana respectively because of their higher altitude. It is because the
atmosphere is not directly heated by the Sun's rays. First, the Sun's rays heat
the earth's surface then, the lower atmosphere is heated by conduction from
the earth. Close to the earth's surface, the layers of air are denser than at
higher altitudes. So the temperature nearer the earth's surface is more than
that higher up. Thus, as we go to higher altitudes, the temperature goes on
decreasing. In general, on climbing every 166 meters, there is fall of 1°C in
temperature (or a fall of 1°F for every 300’. This is known as normal lapse rate.
Hence, if the temperature at a place at sea-level is 26°C, then at the top of a
mountain of 1,660 meters height the temperature will be 16°C approximately).
We can draw a conclusion that temperature of an object or of a place does not
depend only on the amount of heat which it receives but also upon the amount
of heat it loses. If an object loses more heat than the heat received from the
Sun, it gets colder and its temperature falls and the vice-versa. An elevated
plateau received more heat than a piece of low ground because Sun's rays have
crossed a lesser thickness of atmosphere to reach it. But loss of heat is rapid
from the clearer, dust-free rarefied air of the plateau than from the low ground.
In the low area the air is dense and dust particles as well as water vapors are
more helping greater retention of heat. The result is that elevated areas remain
colder of the two. However, in mountain regions, at times, the temperature is
less in valleys than at greater heights. It occurs particularly on calm, cold
winter nights, when the sky is clear and the air very dry. Because of these
conditions, the heat from the earth's surface and the lower layer of the
atmosphere escapes rapidly back into space, making the upper slopes warmer.
The cold is further increased by the sinking of the cool air from the mountain
sides. Thus, there is a reversal in the vertical distribution of temperature. This
is known as the Inversion of Temperature. This phenomenon is very common
in the mid-latitude regions. Due to this, the fruit-growers have their orchards
on the upper slopes of the hills.

DISTANCE FROM THE SEA

At seaside in summer, water is cool and the sand nearby is hot though each is
receiving the same amount of heat from the Sun. Why? Land and water differ
in their behavior when heated. Sun's rays pass through water to a great depth
as water is transparent. Water is also mobile and so the warm water mixes
easily with the cold water. Because of these reasons, the water is neither
heated not cooled quickly. Its temperature rises very slowly. In contrast to this,
the Sun's rays heat a piece of land more rapidly because the heat obtained by
the piece does not mix with other pieces or layers of land. Therefore the land
gets heated or cooled more quickly than water. So during the day, the land is
hotter than the sea. The heated air over the land becomes lighter and rises.
This creates a low pressure area over the land. At this time, the air above the
sea is cooler. When this air blows towards the low pressure area over the land,
it lowers the temperature of the air on land. This is known as Sea Breeze. This
sea breeze has a moderating influence on coastal regions. During the night,
conditions are just the reverse. At this time, the sea remains warmer than the
land. So the land breeze blows from the land to the sea, and relieves the cold of
the land. The areas, close to the sea have lower daily and annual ranges of
temperatures.

OCEAN CURRENTS

Ocean currents also affect the temperature of a place. These ocean currents
may be warm or cold. When the winds blow over them, they get their warmth
or cold and affect the temperatures of coastal areas. The warm North Atlantic
Drift raises the winter temperature of North-West Europe, especially those of
the British Isles and Norway. Because of the influence of the Warm Drift, the
port of Bergen (about 60°N) in Norway remains open during the winter season,
whereas ports on the north-east coast of Canada, located in the same latitudes,
remain frozen for several months because of the influence of the cold Labrador
Current. But it should be noted that cold currents have less effect upon
temperature, because they usually lie under off-shore winds. However, there
are exceptions like the on-shore wind blowing over the cold Labrador Current,
and the cold Beguile Current. But the cool Canaries has little cooling effect in
summer on the coast of Iberian Peninsula (Portugal and Spain), because at
that time that region comes under the influence of off-shore north-east trade
winds. In those areas, where the warm and cold current meet, the temperature
falls below the dew-point, giving rise to foggy conditions. The mixing of warm
moist air over Labrador Current causes dense fogs in the neighborhood at the
Grand Bank of New Found land and at the mouth of the St. Lawrence. The fogs
extend several kilometers in land, reduce visibility and hinder communication.

WINDS

Prevailing Winds: Winds indirectly change the temperature of a place in the


neighborhood of sea or according to the areas from which they blow. The
prevailing winds, in temperate latitudes, coming from the land area lower the
temperature in winter and raise it in summer. In contrast, the prevailing winds
coming from the sea areas raise the winter temperatures, but lower the
summer temperatures. In winter, central and northern parts of China get
winds from cold Central Asia, and, therefore, their temperatures are sufficiently
lower than those of other places lying in the same latitudes elsewhere. The high
Himalaya does not allow the cold central Asian winds to cross towards the
northern plains of India. Calcutta and Guangzhou (South China) are both on
the same latitude. But the January temperature of Calcutta to the south of
Himalaya is about 20°C while that of Guangzhou to its north is 14°C.
Local Winds: Several local winds bring a marked change in the temperature.
During the day the land is hotter than the sea. The heated air over the land
becomes lighter and rises. This creates a low pressure area over the land. At
this time, the air above the sea is cooler. When this air blows towards the low
pressure area over the land, it lowers the temperature of the air on land. This
is known as Sea Breeze. This sea breeze has a moderating influence on coastal
regions. During the night, conditions are just the reverse. At this time, the sea
remains warmer than the land. So the land breeze blows from the land to the
sea, and relieves the cold of the land. The areas, close to the sea have lower
daily and annual ranges of temperatures.
In the plains of northern India, the hot wind, called Loo, blowing from
Rajasthan makes western U.P. very hot. Every year, in the summer season, it
is the cause of sun-stroke to thousands of people. The warm dry Chinook wind,
blowing across the Rocky Mountains from the west, causes a considerable rise
in temperatures in the Central Plains of the U.S.A. This wind gets warmed up,
when it descends along the eastern or leeward slopes of the Rocky Mountains.
Like the Chinook, the Cohen also is a warm dry descending wind. It blows
across the Alps down the northern or leeward slopes in winter. When it
descends down the mountain slopes, it warms up. The Hamates, a dry wind
that blows over North-West Africa from north-east areas, brings relief to those
areas from the damp heat of the tropics. Although full of dust, it is welcomed
by the people. It is known as the 'Doctor'. The Sirocco, hot dry wind blowing
from the Sahara to the Mediterranean, is most unpleasant. When this wind
crosses the Mediterranean Sea, it picks up sufficient moisture. This makes it
an oppressively hot moist wind. Its scorching nature brings a great loss to
vegetation and crops. The Mistral and the Bora are the cold winds which blow
from the north of Europe. The Mistral is taken as the violent wind in the lower
Rhone Valley and across the Mediterranean coast up to Genoa. It often causes
the winter temperature to fall below freezing point. The Bora occurs in winter,
when the atmospheric pressure over continental Europe is more than that over
the Mediterranean Sea. This is a dry and very cold wind. It is more violent than
the Mistral.

CLOUDS

Clouds in the sky also affect the temperature of a place. The presence of clouds
in the sky prevents the amount of solar radiation coming to the earth's surface.
It also prevents the ground radiation, leaving the earth's surface. Because of
this, the places, where clouds are less, experience a high day temperature
(more than 38°C) and a much lower night temperature (less than 21°C). Such
is the condition in deserts. In the equatorial areas, because of the abundance
of cloud cover, day temperatures are not so high and night temperatures not so
low.

SLOPE OF THE LAND

The effect of slope of the land is not so much noticed in the tropical areas,
because in those latitudes the mid-day Sun is always high in the sky, and its
rays fall more or less vertically over the whole land. But in temperate latitudes
its effect is noticed significantly. In these latitudes, the Sun facing slope of
mountains that are more or less parallel to the equator gets warmer than the
land sloping away from the Sun or towards the Poles. This is because the slope
facing the Sun will get more or less vertical rays, whereas the slope away from
the Sun will get slanting rays. In the Northern Hemisphere, the land, having its
slope towards the south, is warmer than the land having its slope towards the
north. In the Southern Hemisphere the position is just the reverse. In
mountain regions, as for example, of the Himalaya, as soon as the Sun rises, it
starts warming the south facing slopes. It favors the creation of human
settlements and orchards or croplands along these slopes.