Many factors affect temperatures on different scales. The main factors affecting the Earth's temperature on a global scale are the Sun, the seasons, air and sea currents, and latitude. These factors are still important on a smaller scale, even in micro-climates. There can also be other important factors, such as altitude, land masses, surface characteristics, aspect, cloud cover and artificially generated heat. These factors affect temperatures on a more local scale. For example in a house, if the central heating is on, the house will be warmer. In addition, the Earth's temperature is being affected by global warming, and the increase of greenhouse gases.

The Sun is obviously the most important factor affecting temperature globally, and at other levels. It provides the vital heat source, without which we could not survive. The Sun's rays heat the Earth by a form of heat transfer known as radiation: during the day heat from the Sun's rays is absorbed by the Earth. When it is cloudy or at night, it is colder

than when the Sun is shining. The heat from the Sun's rays is absorbed by the clouds, instead of by the land, so it is cooler on the ground. Night occurs on the far side of the planet from the Sun,as the Earth spins on its axis. At night, the heat absorbed by the land sometimes the Northern Hemisphere is tilted towards the Sun; and sometimes the Southern Hemisphere is tilted towards the Sun. This results in the seasons, which are periods of different weather patterns throughout the year. However, at the Equator, at 0 ° latitude, for example, in Equador, the seasons tend to merge. This is because there is little change in position relative to the Sun: the Equator is equidistant from the Sun throughout the year. Different parts of the world get different amounts of sunlight: further away from the Equator, temperatures are lower. In areas at higher latitudes, such as the North and South Poles, the Sun's rays have a lot further, and a lot more atmosphere, to travel through. In the atmosphere, there are tiny dust particles which reflect the light. When there are more of these (1/b), more light is reflected away from the Earth's surface. At the Equator (1/a), there is less atmosphere for the Sun's rays to travel through, so more heat is absorbed by the Earth. Also, light rays at the Equator (2/a), have a smaller area to spread their warmth, and are therefore more concentrated. At the Poles (2/b), there is a lot

more area to cover. The Earth's temperatures are also greatly affected by world-wide systems of winds, which carry warm and cold air across the planet. At the Equator, air is warmed by the high levels of radiation. This warm air rises and flows away from the Equator at high altitudes. Colder, denser air flows across the surface from the Poles towards the Equator. This is a form of heat transfer known as convection. These air masses warm up or cool down the land they pass over. Warm air from the sea can hold a lot of moisture, forming large clouds which block out the sun. The sea also greatly affects global temperatures. Whereas the land heats up and cools down relatively quickly, the sea changes temperature slowly. Because the sea makes up about 70% of the Earth's surface, it has a great influence on global temperatures. The sea's currents ferry cool and warm water around the Earth. This is another example of the process of convection. The major surface currents in the world's oceans are caused by prevailing winds.

Some of the main warm currents are the Gulf Stream, going north east from the Caribbean, the Agulhas flowing down the east coast of Africa and the Kuroshio, travelling

up the Japanese coast. All of these warmer currents are moving from equatorial regions. Colder currents such as the Labrador current, which flows down past Canada, generally come from the Poles. These currents either warm up or cool down the land masses they come in contact with.

Other factors which have a minimal impact on global temperatures include altitude (mountain ranges or large areas of flat land), air pressure, land surface (structure and colour) and the phenomenon of global warming. Factors such as the Sun and seasons and sea and air currents, which have an impact on global temperatures, must also affect the temperatures of continents, countries, and even cities and towns. Altitude has a big effect on the temperature of continents such as Europe, Asia and the Americas, which have some of the world's tallest mountains. Mountains divert warm or cold winds, forcing air upwards. This results in relief rainfall, especially if the wind has come from over the sea. Relief rainfall is caused when warm moist air encounters an obstacle and is forced up above dew point. The water condenses and clouds form. These block sunlight and it is cooler beneath them. Also on the top of mountains, at high altitudes, it is a lot colder – stronger winds, more clouds and less artificially generated heat help create this effect. For example, Cayambe, a 5790m volcano in Equador, has a permanent snowcap, even though it is on the Equator. However, in general, latitude does affect the temperatures of continents quite noticeably. The far north or the far south is much colder than near the Equator. The continent with the most marked difference in latitude is Asia, which spans from south of the Equator all the way to the North Pole. For example, Cape Chelyuskin in Siberia, which is at 77°43' North, has an annual average temperature of -15°. Thousands of miles

further south, Palawan, in the Philippines, at latitude 10°00' North has an annual average temperature of 26.5°C. The sea temperature affects continents as well. The sea warms up and cools down more slowly than the land, thereby moderating temperature changes all round the coasts of continents. Air currents also affect continental temperatures. They carry warm or cold air across the continent, warming or cooling the land they pass over, and sometimes forming clouds.

These factors – the Sun, wind, sea, latitude,and altitude all affect temperatures of individual countries. For example, in the northern hemisphere, a country just north of an mountain will get colder weather. This is because the mountains block the warm equatorial wind. Countries to the south will be warmer, as the mountains block cold weather blowing from the north. Those southerly countries would also be quite wet as they would get both relief and convectional rainfall. In Britain there are four main temperature regions – the southeast is warm and dry; the northeast is cold and dry; the northwest is cold and wet; and the southwest is warm and wet. This is largely due to three factors – air masses (winds) , latitude, and sea currents. Britain is affected by four main air masses: Polar maritime (Pm), which is cold, and, because it has come from across the Sea, moist; Polar continental (Pc), which is cold and dry; Tropical maritime (Tm), which is warm and very wet, because warm air holds more moisture than cold air; and Tropical continental (Tc), which brings heat waves from the Sahara. The British Isles lie between 50° and 60° North. This latitude results in very distinct seasons and significant change in day length between summer and winter.

However, parts of Canada are also in the same latitude as Britain, but they experience much colder weather. This is due to sea currents. The warm Gulf Stream current transfers warm tropical waters into higher latitudes, increasing temperatures in England, while the Labrador current brings cold polar water to the coast of Canada.

Australia has a unique climate due to its positioning, shape, and size. Because it is such a large country, temperatures vary enormously from the north (at latitude 12° south) to the south (at latitude 42° south).

In the north there are subtropical regions, which have a wet season and a dry season. The wet season is extremely hot because the high levels of atmospheric water vapour trap the heat. Central Australia is hot and dry. These arid regions lie between 15° and 35° latitude, as do most deserts. During the daytime, in the desert, temperatures rise to

40°C or above, as the red soil and rocks absorb all the heat from the Sun's rays. At night, temperatures drop to freezing, as the warmth radiates straight back out to space: there is no moisture in the air to hold the heat. Inland from the east coast lie the highest mountains. Relief rainfall forms along the mountain ranges, and clouds which block out lots of the Sun's rays. Around the coasts of Australia it is colder , due to the proximity of the sea. On the south east coast of Australia it is cold and wet, as both cold sea currents and cold air currents from the arctic hit the coast there. As well as these factors, it is so much further south that the weather changes considerably due to latitude. The Sun has to travel through much more atmosphere, bouncing off tiny particles and losing energy. In total, 97 % 1 of the population of Australia live in just 30 % of the land, because high temperatures and lack of water make habitation difficult or impossible inland.

Factors which may have a minimal impact on a global scale an have a far greater effect locally. A small region with a particular climate is called a micro-climate. There are millions of microclimates in the world: Cambridge is a micro-climate; a house is a micro-climate; two places right next to each other can have a different micro-climate. Cities have a particular micro-climate; temperatures are affected by by many factors. Trees use up heat energy through evapotranspiration, which results in cooler temperatures. However, cities tend to have fewer trees, so less cooling takes place. On the other hand, urban areas do have more surfaces such as tarmac and buildings, which absorb lots more heat. These factors combine to push up temperatures in built up areas. Population density is another important factor : bodies radiate heat. High population density is also linked to high use of computers, fridges, and other electronic appliances which radiate heat. Underground train systems also generate heat. The large numbers of people generate higher levels of water vapour. This condenses above the city,

forming cloud cover and trapping heat. Smog creates another large impact, especially in industrial cities such as Bradford. Smog blocks out rays of sunlight, and stops warmth escaping overnight. Consequently, urban areas with lots of smog tend to have cooler days and warmer nights than the surrounding countryside. The warmer area directly over the centre of a city is called a heat island.

Another interesting microclimate is a house, where even the slightest changes, such as having the central heating on, can make a big difference. In the winter, in a house, not only a room with the heating on, but the rooms around it will be warmer, as the heat is transferred about the house. If a house has for instance, nine rooms, with the heating on in three, it will warm the entire house. Population density (on a smaller scale) affects house temperatures as well. If there are many people in the house, their bodies will radiate more heat into the surrounding atmosphere. The impact of external features, such as the Sun and the wind, depend on the positioning of the house. Positioning of the house affects the temperature for many reasons. If the house is next to others, in a city, it will be warmer than one in the countryside. Its positioning

affects how much direct sunlight it receives. Houses with two large sides facing the Sun have a warmer temperature. The wind can carry warm or cold air into the house, and could blow rain onto the house if there is no shelter. Other external factors, such as surface texture and colour will affect how much heat is absorbed by the building.

Global warming is an ongoing factor. The Sun emits energy, which travels to the Earth, warming the surface. This energy radiates back out to space but some is trapped by gases in the atmosphere, keeping the Earth warm. This is known as the greenhouse effect.

Water vapour is the most abundant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. Natural phenomena can contribute to the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. For example, erupting volcanoes spew carbon dioxide (CO2) as well as ash into the atmosphere. But man made gases are increasing, concentrating the greenhouse effect. This is warming up the planet. There are many causes for this. CO2 is released through the burning of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are used in

factories, airplanes, and other motorized vehicles. Airplanes produce over 3 % of all CO2 emissions in the atmosphere. Since 1765, CO2 concentration in the atmosphere has increased by 27 % 2. Methane (CH4) comes from modern farming methods and landfill sites. High levels of CH4 are generated by rice fields, and in the gut of cows and sheep. CH4 concentration has risen by over 100 % since 1765! 2 Nitrous Oxide (NO4) comes from the production of fertilizers and nylon, and from the burning of fossil fuels. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFOs) are used in air fresheners and aerosols. Even though they have a very small concentration in the atmosphere, their effect is significant because they trap more radiation than other greenhouse gases. Climate change is having a huge impact on the Earth. Ice caps are melting, causing rising sea levels. At first the cold water will bring colder winters to lower latitudes, but then the Earth may warm up more and many places will become infertile. Because of this, efforts are being made to reduce global warming. Many countries have initiated cleanup projects, and are working to recycle CO2 emissions. With a little luck and a lot of effort we may be able to reduce the effect of global warming.

In conclusion, although many factors affect the Earth, some are definitely more important than others. The sun is the most important factor. How the sun affects us is affected by the rotation of the Earth, latitude, and cloud cover. Cloud cover is affected by the wind, another important factor, and the wind is effected by what it has passed over, and by altitude. Mountains redirect wind, or force it up to form clouds. If the wind has passed over a warm sea, it will be warm and wet, and if it has passed over a cold land mass, it will be cold and dry. The seas have a huge impact on the land masses. Minor

factors, such as population density, can have a big impact in smaller areas. And all of these factors are affected to some extent by global warming.

References: 1. 2. Ace Information Programme, Weather and Climate Teaching Pack KS4 , Lesson 12.3 geog.2 Gallagher and Parish Oxford 2005

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