How Geography Affects the Weather

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  • 0:03 What Is Weather?
  • 0:34 How Geography Affects…
  • 1:53 Plants, Water, and Weather
  • 3:03 How Humans Affect Weather
  • 3:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

After completing this lesson, you will be able to explain how geography affects the weather, including physical geography and human geography. A short quiz will follow.

What Is Weather?

Weather is the state of the atmosphere at a particular moment in time, in terms of temperature, precipitation, and moisture. On science fiction shows, people sometimes have amazing powers to affect the weather. This is impossible in real life. But in real life, there are still things that affect the weather. One thing that affects the weather is the geography of an area. This includes the topography of the land, the latitude, vegetation cover, human impact on the land, and the proximity of bodies of water to an area.

How Geography Affects the Weather

Geography affects the weather in many ways. Let's go through a few of these in more detail.

One thing that can affect weather is the topography of an area. This refers to the arrangement of natural and manmade features of an area. It can include mountains, rivers, or cities. Topographical features like mountains affect the weather mostly in the way that they direct air currents. For example, air is forced to rise over mountains. Moist air will cool as it rises, and then the clouds release the water, causing precipitation like rain or snow. This is why one side of a mountain range - the side nearest the ocean - often gets more rain.

An area's latitude on the surface of the Earth (location in terms of north and south) also affects the weather, because it changes the intensity of the sun's light that the area receives. This has a direct effect on the temperature. If you're at the equator, the sun is always high in the sky, and that concentrates the sun's rays, making it hotter. Whereas at the North Pole and South Pole, the sun is always low in the sky, and this causes the sun's rays to be spread out and diluted. The equator also doesn't have seasons that vary the weather because the sun's height in the sky isn't much different during the year: whether the Earth is tilted towards the sun, or away from the sun, the angle of the sun's rays is pretty consistent.

Plants, Water, and Weather

The vegetation cover is important, too. Vegetation is less reflective than bare land and retains more heat. Whether the air is cold and dry, cold and wet, warm and dry, or warm and wet is determined by the reflectivity of the Earth's surface. More reflective surfaces absorb less of the Sun's heat, causing less moisture to evaporate and causing larger swings in temperature. Think of a jungle, which is usually the same temperature, more or less, as opposed to a desert, which can be very hot during the day and cold at night. It could be argued that this is the driving force behind much of the Earth's weather.

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