Vertical climate is characterized by a terrestrial landscape that changes dramatically with an increase in altitude. As mountains rise, the climate surrounding them changes based on elevation. Vertical climates can exist in all parts of the world, but are most pronounced in the tropics where an ice-covered peak such as Kilimanjaro can be seen from the hot grasslands that are located at the base of the mountain.
Effects of Mountains
Mountain ranges that rise to a considerable height have two basic effects on circulating air masses. The large land mass causes the air to lose heat as it rises up the side of the peak. As the air is cooled, it loses its ability to hold water, and as a result increased precipitation can occur.
The different types of flora and fauna that grow and live on mountain slopes usually exist in very distinct climate zones. These zones are primarily based on elevation with changes being rather abrupt. In Latin America, for example, the mountain zones are called tierra caliente, or "hot land;" tierra templada, or "temperate land;" tierra fria, the "cold land;" and tierra helado, or "land of ice," which contains the mountain's perpetual snow line.
Large mountain ranges that run in a north-south direction often exhibit more pronounced effects of vertical climate change. This is because the formidable wall of rock and stone forms a long barrier to westward moving air masses. As a result, there is much uplifting of air and a subsequent large release of moisture on the west side of the mountains. Meanwhile, the eastern flanks remain dry and rocky.