What factors account for the similarities and differences between the climate zones, and how do those factors impact the climate?

The factors that account for the similarities and differences between climate zones are distance from the ocean, ocean currents, and topography.

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Earth is a diverse planet, but in general, climate scientists give Earth five main climate types. Those are tropical, dry, temperate, continental, and polar.

There are many different factors at work that affect climate. Some of the main factors are the distance from the ocean, ocean currents, prevailing winds, topography, and distance from the equator. Those factors are what make the climate zones different from each other. For example, a tropical climate is typically hot and humid year round and gets more than 59 inches of precipitation per year. A dry climate is very different from that because the desiccated air offers very little precipitation. Temperatures might be similar, but humidity levels are drastically different. That doesn't mean a dry area is never hot and humid. Winds, ocean temperatures, ocean currents, and topography can cause typically dry areas to become much more hot and humid than they normally are. This is what happens with the El Niño weather phenomenon in Southern California. The changes in ocean temperatures lead to increased rates of evaporation which results in higher humidity levels and increased storm conditions. Southern California typically sees an increase of rainfall during an El Niño season.

An area's distance from the ocean is an important part of determining an area's climate because ocean water and the currents present can help to stabilize temperatures. Oceans can help warm and cool an area depending on the season or current weather conditions. This is why coastal areas don't go through the temperature swings that inland areas go through. Prevailing winds can affect climate in similar ways. An area that typically gets wind from offshore will have a cooler and wetter climate than an area that gets winds from inland areas. For example, Southern California typically receives wind from offshore. These cool ocean breezes sometimes stop when the wind shifts and the Santa Ana winds blow in from the desert. Temperatures increase dramatically and humidity drops to single digits. That is a weather change that runs counter to the area's overall climate.

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