How does elevation impact the climate of an area in terms of temperature and precipitation?

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ncchemist eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Elevation can have a great impact on weather, including temperature and precipitation.  And you do not need to be talking about snow topped peaks in the Rockies, either, to see the impact.  I live near Asheville, NC in the Blue Ridge mountains in the western part of the state.  Our area sits at about 2,200 feet in elevation.  When we visit family in nearby SC, they sit at an elevation of about 600 feet.  Despite the fact that the distance is less than a 2 hour drive with very little change in latitude, summer temperatures can easily differ between the two areas by 10 degrees F or more.  It is always cooler at our place in the mountains (higher elevation) than at the lower elevations. 

There is also a difference in precipitation.  The higher elevation is cooler and thus moist incoming air from the east (Atlantic Ocean) tends to lose its precipitation when it hits the cooler mountain air.  As a result, we see more rainfall than our neighbors in SC.  If fact, one of the counties near us is called the "land of waterfalls" due to the high rainfall.