Near the equator, in countries
like Brazil, one can find lush rainforests, tropical beaches,
and warm oceans. At the poles, however, the environment is
very different. Barren fields of ice that are thousands of
years old and air temperatures lower than anywhere else on
earth make up the entire continent of Antarctica.
This great contrast of environment is called
a difference in climate. Many different climates exist all
over the Earth, including hot, barren deserts, tropical rainforests,
and polar regions.
[ What determinines
an area's climate? ]
Many factors affect climate, including
position relative to land and water masses, altitude, topography,
prevailing winds, ocean currents, and prevalence of cyclonic
storms (Encyclopedia.com N. Pag.) However, the most important
factor is latitude, or position between the equator and the
North or South Pole. In general, warmer climates are found
closer to the equator, while colder climate are found as one
moves nearer to the poles.
This is because the sun, which
is the primary source of warmth and energy on earth, (see
Why do we need the sun?)
does not shine equally on all parts of the planet. The earth
rotates on an axis defined by the north and south poles, and
the sun is located perpendicularly to this axis, meaning that
its rays are received with greater intensity near the equator
and with less intensity near the poles. The result is
a difference in climate.