Eight Factors That Affect Climate

The Earth's climate is affected by numerous factors.
The Earth's climate is affected by numerous factors. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Climates all over the Earth are different across all continents. With those differences, come natural changes as well. Locations that were once covered in ice are now melting. Warm areas become hotter, and dry areas become moist due to numerous factors.


Latitude is the distance in reference to the equator. Due to its position in regards to the sun, the equator receives the highest amount of sunlight on Earth; therefore, it is the hottest area. The north and south poles are cooler, since the heat is spread over a wider area. The further a location is from the equator, the cooler the climate.

Ocean Currents

Ocean currents can directly affect temperatures of landmasses nearest to them due to the affect the water temperatures have on the air. For example, the Gulf of Mexico is high in temperature due to its location near the equator. Since the Gulf of Mexico is hot, the Gulf Stream, or the ocean current flowing from the Gulf of Mexico, also is warm. That warm current brings moist heat north in the Atlantic and keeps Europe warm in the winter.


Winds that drift over the sea end up bringing the sea temperatures onto land. Winds are caused by pressure due to the difference in the heating of the Earth’s surface. The Earth then tires to equalize air pressure by creating winds. Warmer air can hold more water vapor, and have lower pressures, and therefore, brings much rain.


Climates are directly related to elevation. The higher the altitude of a location, the lower the temperature of the air. Lower elevations have denser air, which means they have more water vapor, air molecules and dust. With this moist air comes the ability for energy to be absorbed and then converted into heat.

Mountainous Relief

Mountains create a relief, or natural barrier, to areas from extreme climates. As air is forced to rise by the mountain, it expands due to loss of gravity. When it rises and expands, it becomes cooler and denser. When it reaches the other side of the mountain, the temperature will increase causing climate phenomena similar to Chinooks.

Vicinity to Water

A location's vicinity to major water bodies also has a direct relationship to temperature and climates. Coastal areas are always cooler and moister than inland climates. Inland climates are subject to a larger range of temperatures than coastal areas, since the moister air evaporates quickly as it travels inland.

El Nino

El Nino is the rapid warming of the Pacific Ocean’s surface water. This warm water increases the moisture in the air, which alters wind and rain over the entire globe. El Nino has been blamed for tornadoes, smog and forest fires in different areas of the world.

Human Interaction

The effect that human behavior has on global climates is underestimated. As more trees are cut down, less carbon dioxide is naturally used by the environment, which creates a deficit in oxygen as well. The use of these trees is for paper products, structural buildings and for simple fires, which all create even more carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide emissions.

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