The temperatures we experience every day are influenced by many factors. There are main factors that influence temperature, and those are the prevailing winds and mountain barriers.
Prevailing winds are the routes that airflow takes as it travels across the Earth. These winds can be caused by differences in temperature, or by the rotation of the Earth.
Mountains create barriers for airflow, causing a drop in temperature. This is because mountains prevent warm air from higher altitudes from dropping down to lower altitudes.
When these two factors work together, they can have a powerful effect on the area’s temperature. For example, let’s take a look at some places where these factors play a big role in the area’s climate.
This article will discuss in detail these two factors and how they affect the area’s temperature.
Prevailing winds affect temperature
Prevailing winds are the usual direction the wind blows. In most parts of the world, the prevailing wind is from the northwest, meaning it comes from the Atlantic Ocean and moves across the US.
How far inland this wind goes and how much it changes direction depends on where you are looking at.
If you were to look at a map of the US and color in where the wind usually blows from, you would have a pretty good idea of how warm or cold an area is going to be.
This is because the colder air that comes off of the ocean gets warmed up as it moves inland. If there are no mountains to stop it, it will continue moving until it gets cooled off.
An example of this is Kansas being pretty warm despite being so far north. The northwestern winds coming off of the ocean get heated up as they move over into Kansas, causing warmer temperatures.
Latitude affects temperature
Another important factor is latitude, or the imaginary line that runs down the globe from north to south. As mentioned before, cooler temperatures occur at higher altitudes, so latitude combines with elevation to influence temperature.
Prevailing winds also play a part in determining temperature. If an area is exposed to warm winds from the south, it will be warmer than if it was sheltered from those winds by mountains or circulatory winds from the north.
Latitude also affects how much sunlight an area receives, and how long its days and nights are. All of these things influence temperature to some degree, making it another important factor to consider when assessing climate.
For example, people who live closer to the equator typically have shorter and warmer daily periods, as well as longer periods of warmth during the year due to less cloudy days.
Close proximity to water affects temperature
Interestingly, proximity to water affects temperature in a significant way. Wind cannot flow over water, so it must change direction or increase in speed to avoid it.
When the wind shifts direction, it picks up heat or cools down as it moves across different surfaces. This is called adiabatic cooling and heating.
Since wind can’t blow across water, this also means that there is no exchange of heat between the two. This creates a separation of temperature between land and water.
Coastal areas tend to be cooler than areas farther inland because of this effect. This is why you may hear people say that the beach is cold at night-the air above the water is cooler than the air inland.
Mountains also affect wind flow, which affects temperature regulation in an area.
Hot summer days and cold winter nights are typical of deserts
In most cases, deserts are located in areas with a lot of sunshine, but little rainfall. This is because deserts are regions where water is scarce, and the landscape is mostly dry vegetation and sand.
The main factors that affect an area’s temperature are prevailing winds and mountains. Prevailing winds can either bring warmth or coolness to a region, while mountains can either trap heat or prevent it from reaching the area below.
Deserts are one of the most famous examples of regions that experience extreme temperatures due to this weather phenomenon. The Sahara Desert in Africa is one of the hottest places on Earth, with an average temperature of around 23 degrees Celsius (73 degrees Fahrenheit).
However, at night it drops to around 1 degree Celsius (33 degrees Fahrenheit) which is quite a dramatic drop in temperature. Similar temperatures occur in the Antarctic region, where it is extremely hot and sunny during the day, but very cold at night.
Coastal areas are warmer because of the influence of the sea
The temperature of an area is heavily influenced by the surrounding features, especially wind and mountains.
Winds coming from warm areas and passing over the coastline cause the temperatures to rise. This is because the sea temperature is slightly higher than the air temperature, so when the wind passes over the cooler sea, it picks up some of its warmth.
Mountains have a similar effect, but in the opposite way. Cold winds coming off of high mountain peaks drop the temperature of the surrounding area.
This is why you usually see snowy areas near mountains, whereas coastal regions are more likely to be warm or tropical.
Pro tip: Look at a country’s climate and compare it to neighboring countries to get an idea of its typical temperature.
Temperature rises with elevation
As mentioned before, temperature rises with elevation, but what isn’t mentioned much is how quickly that elevation rise affects temperature.
Prevailing winds typically come from the west and as you go up in elevation, you move into a different climate zone. This means that as you go up in elevation, the wind changes direction.
When you are on a lower level, the wind comes from a certain direction and brings warmer air with it. As you go up in elevation, the wind changes direction and brings cooler air with it. This creates a cooling effect which helps regulate the temperature of the area.
Mountains also play a huge role in regulating temperature. Because of the impassable nature of mountains, they prevent large amounts of warm or cool air from entering the area behind them. This again helps regulate the area’s temperature by blocking incoming weather patterns.
Low-pressure areas can cause a drop in temperature around them
In the winter months, as winds blow from northeast to southwest, the flow of air over a large area of land can become cooler.
If there is a large mass of warm air above the ground, then the flowing air above it will be warmer. When these two meet, a drop in temperature occurs.
As the wind passes over a mountain range, it becomes cooler as it rises and falls. This is because of the direct exposure to cold air above the mountains.
Both of these factors can cause areas that are normally warm to have colder temperatures during winter months. For example, southern states like Texas and Florida typically do not experience much snow or frost due to these factors.
High-pressure areas can cause a rise in temperature around them
When the wind blows toward a region, it can bring cooler air in from the surrounding area. This can cause the temperature to drop in a region.
High-pressure areas can also cause a rise in temperature around them. How? Well, as we mentioned before, heat moves away from high-pressure areas and toward low-pressure areas.
If there’s a high-pressure area over an area of land, that land will feel warmer than if there were a low-pressure area there. The land is receiving more heat than it’s giving off.
Highlands and mountains create barriers that affect winds and temperature fluctuations. Winds may be blocked or redirected by these natural features which can cause differences in temperature within an area.