As the Sun warms the equator more than the poles, climate varies with latitude. This image shows how sea surface temperatures change at different latitudes. Red colors indicate warmer ocean water, blues and purples indicate cooler ocean water.
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy of NOAA. Public domain.
What Is Climate?
Climate in your place on the globe is called regional climate.
It is the average weather pattern in a place over more than thirty years,
including the variations in seasons.
To describe the regional climate of a place people often describe what
the temperatures are like, how windy it is, and how much rain or snow
falls. The climate of a region depends on many factors including the amount
of sunlight it receives, its altitude, topography, and how close it is
to oceans. Since the equatorial regions receive more sunlight than the
poles, climate varies with
However, we can also look at climate at the scale of an entire planet.
Global climate is a description of the climate
of a planet as a whole, with all the regional variations averaged. Overall,
global climate depends on the amount of energy received by the Sun and
the amount of energy that is held in the system. These amounts are different
for different planets. Scientists who study Earth's climate and climate
change study the factors that affect the climate of our whole planet.
While the weather can change in just a few hours, climate
changes over longer timeframes. Climate events, like El
Nino, happen over several years, small scale fluctuations happen over
decades, and larger climate changes happen over hundreds and thousands
of years. Today, climates are changing. Our Earth is warming more quickly
than it has in the past according to the research of scientists. Hot summer
days may be quite typical of climates in many regions of the world, but
global warming is causing Earth's average global temperature to
Global warming is actually quite complicated. Earth's global climate
is a dynamic system driven by such variables as the amount of solar radiation,
chemistry of the atmosphere, amount and types of clouds, and the influence
of the biosphere. A change in the temperature can cause changes in other
parameters that affect climate such as weather elements like clouds or
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
The Summer 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist
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, includes articles on rivers and snow, classroom planetariums, satellites and oceanography, hands-on astronomy, and global warming.
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