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Temperature Distribution

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Temperature Distribution On Earth

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The ultimate source of heat and energy is the Sun. The divergent heat received from the sun on the different regions on Earth is the utmost reason behind the different climate features. So understanding the pattern of temperature distribution on Earth in different seasons is important for understanding different climatic features such as precipitation, wind system, pressure system, etc.  

In this article, we will discuss the horizontal and vertical distribution of temperatures along with the factors affecting and factors controlling the temperature distribution on Earth. 

Horizontal Distribution of Temperature

The distribution of temperature across latitude over the Earth's surface is known as the horizontal distribution of temperatures. The horizontal distribution of temperature on Earth is shown by Isotherms. Isotherms are the line joining points that have an equal temperature. When the isotherm map is analyzed, it can be observed that the horizontal distribution of temperature is uneven. 

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Following are the Factors Accountable for the Uneven Horizontal Distribution of Temperature are:

  • Latitude

  • Altitude

  • Land And Sea Contrast

  • Ocean Currents

  • Passage of Air Masses

  • Vegetation Cover

Vertical Distribution of Temperature

As we are aware that the temperature in the troposphere decreases with increase in altitudes but the rate of decrease in temperature changes according to seasons. The decrease of temperatures is known as vertical temperature gradient or normal lapse rate which is 1000 times more than the horizontal lapse rate. The decrease of temperature upward in the atmosphere proves the fact that the atmosphere gets heat from the Earth surface through the process of conduction, radiation, and convection. Hence, it is obvious that as the distance from the Earth’s surface ( the source of direct heat energy to the atmosphere) increases ( i.e as the altitude increases ), the air temperature decreases.

Factors Affecting Temperature Distribution

Some of the factors affecting the temperatures distribution are:

  1. Latitude: The temperature of the surface water decreases from the equator towards the poles because the sun rays become more and more inclined and hence the amount of insolation minimizes poleward.

  2. Unequal Distribution of Land And Water: The oceans in the northern hemisphere receive more heat because of their contact with the larger extent of land than the equivalent parts in the southern hemisphere.

  3. Prevailing Winds: The winds blowing from the land towards the ocean drive surface water away from the coasts resulting in an upwelling, in which deep cold water rises into the surface.

  4. Ocean Current: Warm ocean current decreases the temperature in cold areas whereas the cold current decreases the temperature in the warm ocean. For example, in a gulf stream, a warmer current increases the temperature of the Eastern coast of North America and the west coast of Europe.

  5. Other factors affecting the temperature distribution are local weather conditions like storms and cyclones.

Factors Controlling Temperature Distribution

The factors controlling the temperature distribution on the Earth’s surface is discussed below:

  • The latitude of the Place

  • The altitude of the Place

  • Distance From The Sea

  • The presence of warm and cold ocean Currents

  • Local Aspects

Global Distribution of Temperature

The global distribution of temperature can be effectively understood by considering the temperature distribution for the month of January and July. The distribution of temperature is usually shown on the map using the isotherms. The isotherms are line joining places of equal temperature. Generally, the effects of latitude is well shown on the map as isotherms are generally parallel to the latitudes. The deviation from this trend is more generally observed in January rather than in July, especially in the northern hemisphere. The land surface is much larger in the northern hemisphere than the southern hemisphere. Hence, the effects of land masses and ocean currents are well observed.

Temperature Distribution - January

  • In January, there is winter in the Northern hemisphere and summers in the southern hemisphere.

  • The western margins of continents in January are much higher than the Eastern counterparts as the westerlies can carry high temperatures into the landmasses.

  • The temperature gradient is much closer to the Eastern margins of continents. The isotherms observe more steady behavior in the southern hemisphere.

Temperature Distribution - July

  • During July, it is winter in the Southern hemisphere and summers in the Northern hemisphere. The isotherm behavior is the opposite of what it was in January.

  • The isotherms are generally parallel to the latitudes in July. The equatorial oceans record warmer temperatures more than 27 degrees celsius. More than 30 degrees celsius is noticed over the land in the subtropical continent region of Asia, along the 30 ° N latitude.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What are the Factors Influencing the Distribution of Temperatures?

Ans. The factors influencing the distribution of temperature are:

  • The angle of Incidence or Inclination of Sun’s rays

  • Duration of Sunshine

  • Atmospheric Transparency

  •  Land Sea Differential 

  • Aspects of Slope

  • Prevailing Winds

  • Ocean Current

  • Altitude

  • Earth distance From The Sun

2. What are the Effects of Latent Heat Flux on the Horizontal Distribution of Temperature?

Ans. The global movement of latent heat energy through the circulation of air and water is known as the latent heat flux. The latent heat energy is moved by atmospheric circulation vertically and horizontally to cooler places where it is condensed as rain or is deposited as snow releasing the heat energy stored within it.  Large quantities of radiation energy are transformed into Earth’s tropical ocean. Radiant energy enters these water bodies at the surface when absorbed radiation is transformed into heat energy. The warmed water surface is further transferred downwards into the water column through the process of conduction and convection. The horizontal transformation of this heat energy from the equator to the poles is accomplished through the ocean currents. 

3. What Is Exactly the Vertical Distribution of Temperature?

Ans. The vertical distribution of temperature refers to the distribution of temperature in the different layers of the atmosphere at the different latitudes from the Earth's surface. The temperature generally decreases due to the elevation from the surface. The decrease in temperature is different in all places and it is not similar everywhere.