where we hope you learn about the fascinating weather that affects us day to day. This is a great learning resource for parents and teachers.
Climate is a country’s normal weather over a long period of time. By climate we mean a country’s rain and sunshine, winds, storms and everything else that makes up the weather.
The weather changes from day to day and even from hour to hour. It can be sunny in the morning and cold and wet in the afternoon. The climate changes very slowly over thousands of years.
We know that the Equator means heat and the Arctic means cold. Climates are also affected by how close a country is to the sea and by how high a country is.
We can divide the world’s climates into three main groups:
- Arctic (or Frigid) zones, round the North and South Poles
- Tropical zones, round the Equator
- Temperate zones, in between the Torrid and Arctic zones
Each of these groups, however, contains a wide range of climatic conditions.
Arctic climates can be subdivided into two, polar climates and sub-arctic climates.
- The Polar climate of the Arctic (round the North Pole) and the Antarctic (round the South Pole). The climate round the North and South Poles does not support life. In the Antarctic the temperature never goes above freezing. For a short period in the Arctic temperatures may move above freezing and the ice can melt.
In recent years there is evidence of climate change in the Arctic, with much warmer temperatures. This is causing much of the ice-cap which used to cover this area to melt.
- The Sub-Arctic zone covers places such as Greenland, Labrador, Alaska, the far north of Canada, the far north of Scandinavia and Siberia. In winter in these areas temperatures remain below zero and the rivers and lakes remain frozen. In summer there is a thaw, and the plants on the tundra can support animal life.
The areas between the Equator and the lines of latitude 30 degrees north and south have hot, tropical climates. There are three main sub-divisions of tropical climates.
- Equatorial climates are found along the equator. These climates have rainfall all year. Temperatures are always high and the rain falls daily in heavy thunderstorms.
- Tropical climates (in the true sense) are to the north and south of the equatorial climates. Temperatures are always high and in summer they have heavy rain. In winter the dry Trade Winds blow and there is less rain.
- Hot desert climates are very dry and hot, with almost no rain at all. Examples of desert climates are found in North Africa (the Sahara Desert), in Arabia, in southern California, and in parts of Australia.
The temperate climates can be divided into warm temperate climates and cool temperate climates.
- The warm temperate climates include the Mediterranean climate. Summers are hot and dry and winters are mild and wet.
- Cool temperate climates are climates such as that found in the British Isles, northern Europe and New Zealand. Summers are warm and winters can be cold, with snow and freezing temperatures for short periods. Rain falls throughout the year, but there is more rainfall in winter than in summer.
This division into climate zones looks very simple, but we know that there are many differences between climates even with one climate zone.
Climate does not just depend on how far from the Equator or the North Pole we are. It also depends on how high a country is or how near the sea it is.
The sea affects climate because the sea absorbs the sun’s heat. As a result coastal climates are warmer than inland climates on the same latitude.
Altitude (height above sea level) also affects climate. The higher a country is, the colder it is.
Climate can be very varied even inside a small country. In Great Britain, the north of the country is much more mountainous than the south, so the climate of northern Scotland is much wetter than the climate of southern England, although they are only 600 miles apart.