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Temperature Patterns

  • By: Gregory S. Bohr
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Global temperature patterns are primarily determined by the amount of solar radiation reaching Earth's surface, which in turn is influenced by factors such as latitude, the distribution of land masses and oceans, cloud cover, topography, and the circulation of the atmosphere and oceans. As solar radiation reaches the surface, it is absorbed—resulting in warming, reflected, or converted to latent heat in the evaporation of water. Surface temperature is thus determined by the flux of radiation to the surface and the disposition of this energy as it arrives.

Global temperature patterns are characterized by a latitudinal temperature gradient with colder temperatures toward the poles, greater temperature variability in high-latitude continental interiors as well as in arid regions, and cooler and more variable temperatures at high elevations. The ...

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