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Weather around the world

Weather around the world can be very different. These differences are dependent on the Earth's position in regards to the Sun, the amount of moisture in the atmosphere and the landscape.

Areas of the world can be divided into different climate zones. These zones are determined by their position on Earth, the landscape and their position in relation to the equator (the imaginary line that wraps around the Earth). Climate zones are determined by the types of weather experienced over a set period of time.

Earth is shaped like a ball (a sphere) and because of this the heat from the Sun is distributed unevenly across the Earth. The equator receives the most heat from the Sun, whilst the Earths poles (at the top and bottom of the Earth) receive the least amount of heat. This is why countries near the equator are always warm, and those areas near the poles are always cold. This uneven heating results in different wind patterns in the air, which also contributes to the different weather patterns.

The five main climatic zones are:

  • the polar zones
  • the mountain zones
  • the temperate zones
  • the tropical zones
  • the desert zones.

Polar zones

The polar climate zones are the coldest places on Earth and include Antarctica (South Pole), Arctic (North Pole), Greenland, and the northern areas of Canada and Russia. Polar zones are often referred to as cold deserts because the landscape is so barren. See image 1

The weather in polar zones is so cold that temperatures can fall to minus 50 degrees Celsius in winter. For six months of the year these zones experience very harsh, cold winters. These icy areas most often double in size during winter periods as the water around them freezes. During winter they see no sunshine, and experience blizzards and fierce winds which make for a very harsh environment.

For the other six months the polar zones experience cold summer days. During summer some of the ice and snow will melt or break up and drift into warmer waters, but the majority of ice remains. During summer the Sun shines for most of the day and night, yet the heat is not enough to melt the ice and snow dramatically.

The ice and snow in these zones also reflects most of the Suns heat back into the atmosphere, therefore it is not able to warm the areas. See image 2

Temperate zones

Temperate zones are characterised as having mild and moist climates. They most often experience four distinct seasons (winter, spring, summer and autumn). Temperate zones can be further categorised into warm temperate, cool temperate and cold temperate.

Temperate zones are found between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle (polar zones) in the Northern Hemisphere and the Antarctic Circle (polar zone) and the Tropic of Capricorn, which is in the Southern Hemisphere. They receive the cool winds from the polar zones and heat and precipitation from the tropical zones at different times throughout the year.

The majority of the world's population live in temperate zones. These zones are able to offer people adequate water supplies and fertile land for farming, which supplies the population with food. These environments are kinder than other harsher zones like the polar regions. See image 3

Tropical zones

Countries near the equator receive a lot more heat from the Sun, which results in greater moisture rising into the atmosphere from surrounding oceans, lakes and rivers. This moisture then condenses and falls back to Earth as rain. These zones have an average temperature of approximately 27 degrees Celsius and experience very high rainfalls.

The warm temperatures are due to the zones locations near the equator, which is where the Sun shines most directly. The Suns rays are direct, strong and warm throughout the year in tropical areas. Countries that are categorised as being in the tropical zone are parts of Australia, and the West Indies and almost all of India, Indonesia and Brazil.

The high amounts of moisture in the atmosphere around these areas can result in many violent storms, floods, cyclones and monsoons. The weather is very unpredictable and heavy rainfall is common in areas very close to the equator. These climatic zones only experience two seasons: the wet season and the dry season. See image 4

Tropical zones are the climatic opposite of polar zones in regards to heat received.

Desert zones

Desert zones are defined as being dry areas that receive less than 100mm of rain each year. Temperatures are often very high (more than 40 degrees Celsius) during the day and very cold at night.

Desert zones are found within temperate or tropical zones. They are often found on the dry sides of mountain ranges and in the middle of large continents where rainfall is low. In some desert areas rain will not fall for many years. When a storm does hit these zones it is usually only for a short period of time.

Deserts are very dry due to lack of moisture in the atmosphere around them. For this reason clouds are very rare. The lack of clouds means that heat from the Sun does not stay close to the Earths surface and is radiated back into the atmosphere. This leads to temperatures falling at night to nearly freezing.

Winds are common in desert zones. Winds often blow from oceans or other waterways and carry moisture. Unfortunately for deserts this moisture is mostly been dropped (precipitation) by the time these winds reach desert areas. This results in a hot, dry landscape that is covered in rocks and dry sand. See image 5

Mountain zones

Mountain zones are very unique environments because they have their own weather patterns. Weather around mountains can vary greatly because of their high altitude and positions. For example one side of a mountain may face the winds and experience greater precipitation, whilst the other side is sheltered and may not receive any precipitation and be very dry and arid.

Mountains create barriers and can stop the movement of clouds and winds, which then redirects these elements of weather. The height of mountains also adds to the weather conditions of these zones. Air becomes colder the further up you extend. The tops of high mountains are often covered in snow and ice year round, which adds to the amount of precipitation they receive.

Mountain zones can be very changeable, which means weather can change quickly and dramatically. See image 6

Australia's climatic zones

Australia experiences several climatic zones due to its position and large size. Australia is an example of a country that falls into a specific climate zone yet experiences many different climates and weather conditions.

Australia is most described as being a warm-temperate area, as it receives most of its overall rainfall in winter and experiences very dry, hot summers. The country can be divided into four distinct climate zones. These are:

  • Alpine zones, which experience snow in winter and very cold temperatures;
  • Desert zones, which experience very little precipitation and have very hot days and very cold nights;
  • Temperate zones have moderate rainfall and temperatures; and
  • Tropical zones experience high rainfall and average to high temperatures.

Which zone do you live in?

See image 7

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Question 1/5

1. How are climate zones determined?

By the amount of sunlight they receive, how much precipitation they receive and how close they are to the ocean

By the landscape, their closeness to a river or lake, and their position in regards to the poles

By the position of the sun throughout the year and the amount of precipitation they receive

By their position on Earth, their landscape and their position in regards to the equator


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