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8.17: Effect of Latitude on Climate

Difficulty Level: Basic Created by: CK-12
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Do you want to be a Snowbird?

A Snowbird is usually a person who is retired. Like a migrating bird, they go where the weather is good. A snowbird may spend summers "at home" in Michigan or New York. But they travel to Arizona or Florida to spend their winters in the Sun and warmth. What would a reverse snowbird be? A person who spent summers in the 100+ degree heat and winters in the sub-0 cold. Brrrr....

Latitude and Climate

Latitude is the distance north or south of the Equator. It’s measured in degrees, from 0° to 90°. Several climate factors vary with latitude.

Latitude and Temperature

Temperature changes with latitude (Figure below).

  • At the Equator, the Sun’s rays are most direct. This is where temperatures are highest.
  • At higher latitudes, the Sun’s rays are less direct. The farther an area is from the Equator, the lower its temperature.
  • At the poles, the Sun’s rays are least direct. Much of the area is covered with ice and snow, which reflect a lot of sunlight. Temperatures are lowest here.

Map of temperatures of the Earth

Temperature varies with latitude. If you look closely you can see that other factors influence temperature. Mountain ranges, for example, are cooler than they should be for their latitude.

How Much Does Latitude Change Temperature?

Image of how climate differs with latitude

(a) Austin, Texas; (b) Wichita, Kansas; (c) Fargo, North Dakota; (d) Manitoba, Canada.

Different latitude leads to different climates for these cities

Map of North America showing the locations of four cities that lie along the same longitude.

Austin, Texas; Wichita, Kansas; Fargo, North Dakota; and Thompson, Manitoba in Canada all roughly lie on the 97° west longitude line (Figure above and Figure above). But they run the length of the North America from 30°N in Austin, to 38°N in Wichita, to 47°N in Fargo, and to 56°N in Thompson. Other factors affect their climate, but all four cities are inland.

July Avg. High July Avg. Low January Avg. High January Avg. Low
Austin 96 74 62 41
Wichita 93 70 43 22
Fargo 82 60 18 0
Thompson 73 48 -3 -20

The table above shows the variation in high and low temperatures that are due primarily to latitude (Table above). Which latitude would you prefer?


  • Latitude affects the amount of solar radiation a place receives.
  • The amount of solar radiation a place receives is greatest at the Equator and lessens toward the poles.
  • Latitude is not the only factor that determines the temperature of a region.


  1. How do you explain the variation in temperature from Austin, Texas, to Thompson, Manitoba, Canada?
  2. What are two reasons that solar radiation is different at different latitudes?
  3. Look at the map of temperature versus latitude around the globe. Why are the bands not straight across?

Explore More

Use the resource below to answer the questions that follow.

  1. What influences does the Sun have on a region's climate?
  2. Does the tilt of Earth's axis of rotation influence climate?
  3. What is latitude?
  4. What is the Equator and what is the climate there like?
  5. What is the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn?
  6. What is the climate of the area between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn?
  7. What are the middle latitudes? What is the climate like in this region generally?
  8. Describe the polar regions.
  9. What is elevation? How does elevation affect climate?
  10. Besides the amount of precipitation a region gets, what else about precipitation affects climate?
  11. How do wind and water currents affect climate?

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The distance north or south of the Equator.

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Difficulty Level:
6 , 7
Date Created:
Jan 04, 2013
Last Modified:
Aug 09, 2016
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