How does  latitude impact the average temperature patterns?

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boomer-sooner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

     Temperatures on Earth on are largely dependent on how much energy is received from the sun. A latitude is the angle of measure from the Earth's core to a point on the surface, usually expressed in degrees ranging from +90 (North Pole) to -90 (South Pole). The latitude will impact temperatures through two aspects of energy transfer combined with natural energy displacement. The temperature control can be expressed as a mathematical equation. Less surface area at higher latitudes will result in decreased exposure to solar radiation thereby reducing the temperature.

     The Earth is warmed by the energy received from the sun. The troposphere and stratosphere are fairly transparent to solar radiation, but not to terrestrial radiation. This causes the Earth to heat from the surface. Solar radiation heats air on the surface by conduction. This air rises and warms more of the atmosphere via convection. When the outgoing energy exceeds the incoming energy, the air begins to cool.  Due to the curvature of the Earth latitudes furthest away from the equator receive less solar energy because less area is exposed to the radiation. This leads to lower temperatures.

     The Earth maintains more moderate temperatures around the globe than would be seen without an atmosphere. This is due to the general circulation of winds including the infamous jet stream. The winds are responsible for climate zones as the hottest air near the equator is distributed to higher latitudes. The hot air rises at the equator as previously described and spreads north or south along prevailing wind patterns. The air eventually cools enough to fall toward the surface, helping to modulate temperature. The wind also plays a role in the creation of the intertropical convergence zone, or the doldrums, an area around the equator with generally calm winds. The lack of air movement reduces cloud cover and allows for increased temperatures at these latitudes.