How Does Latitude Affect Climate?

By Kathy Imbriani; Updated April 24, 2017
The higher the degrees latitude, the cooler the climate.

Latitude is the distance of any point north or south from the equator. It is represented on maps and globes by imaginary horizontal lines numbered from zero degrees, at the equator, to 90 degrees, at the poles. The climate of any region is determined by a number of factors, but its latitude position is one of the most important.

Tilt, Orbit and the Sun

As Earth orbits the sun, it also revolves around an axis that is tilted 23 ½ degrees. This tilt results in one hemisphere being tipped toward the sun for about half the year, resulting in a summer season, while the hemisphere that is tilted away experiences winter. Regardless of which hemisphere is tilted toward the sun, the area around the equator – the lower latitudes – always receives the most direct sunlight, resulting in consistently warmer climates. Conversely, as the latitude degree increases toward either pole, less sun is received and less energy absorbed, resulting in cooler climates.

About the Author

Kathy Imbriani's love of gardening grew from a childhood spent on the family farm. She is the co-author of two gardening books and numerous articles on science and gardening subjects. Imbriani holds a Bachelor of Science in horticulture from North Carolina State University.