Not Just Latitude

If latitude were the only factor controlling climate, all locations at the same latitude would have the same climate. A look at the following table of latitude and climate shows that this is not the case. Although a traveler on a summertime road trip across America at 33°N would be warm all along the way, he or she would go from the warm and breezy California coast at Long Beach, through the sweltering Arizona desert in Phoenix, to the dripping mugginess of Atlanta, Georgia. A traveler on a January trip along the 47th parallel from Seattle to Spokane, Washington, a distance of only 230 miles (370 km) to the east, would be far chillier, likely going from a relatively balmy and wet winter day

Same Latitude, Different Climate

CITY

AVERAGE HIGH TEMPERATURE

(°F/°C)

JANUARY AVERAGE LOW TEMPERATURE

(°F/°C)

AVERAGE ANNUAL PRECIPITATION (INCHES/CM)

Seattle, WA

47

74/23

36/2

36/91

Spokane, WA

47

83/28

20/-7

17/43

Quebec, Canada

47

77/25

3/-16

34/86

Francisco, CA

37

66/19

46/8

20/51

Wichita, KS

37

92/33

20/-7

29/74

Virginia Beach, VA

37

89/32

31/-1

49/125

Long Beach, CA

33

83/28

48/9

15/38

Phoenix, AZ

33

105/41

40/4

7/18

Atlanta, GA

33

88/31

33/1

50/127

Sources: National Weather Service, National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration

Sources: National Weather Service, National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration in Seattle to a much colder and drier one in Spokane. If the traveler continued on to Quebec, Canada, the weather would likely become wetter again, but also a lot colder, and would possibly include snow. The table on page 36 shows the relationship of latitude and climate at three different northern latitudes.

A look at climate differences along latitude lines makes it obvious that other factors play important roles in determining a region's climate. Besides latitude, the temperature and precipitation of a location depend on its position on a continent; where it is relative to mountain ranges; whether it is near an ocean and, if so, what types of ocean currents are nearby.

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