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Differential Heating

  • By: Mark W. Bowen
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Land surfaces warm and cool much quicker than water bodies, leading to differential heating of the Earth's surface. Water has a higher specific heat (capacity to hold energy) and circulates energy to greater depth than does land, and so water bodies such as oceans, seas, and large lakes can absorb more energy yet heat more slowly than land surfaces. Since energy is more evenly distributed throughout the water column, water bodies also release energy and cool more slowly than do land surfaces. Nearly three quarters of Earth's surface is covered with water, and so oceans and other large water bodies represent immense reservoirs for energy storage and release, strongly influencing climates worldwide. For example, differential heating results in the development of a series of regional ...

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