Natural Resources, School of


Date of this Version



Stevens, A.N.P. (2012) Introduction to the Basic Drivers of Climate. Nature Education Knowledge 3(10):10.



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Climates on Earth vary from the warm, wet tropics to the cold, dry Arctic and Antarctic. What drives this variation?

Every day, we note the weather: temperature, rain, cloud cover, wind and humidity. Climate is the long-term prevailing weather in an area and is largely determined by temperature and precipitation. The climate in a desert is hot and dry. The climate in the tropics is warm and wet. The climate of a particular area is the largest determinant to the life found there. Climate is a key focus in ecology. Variations in climate include daily and seasonal cycles. Climatic variation also includes changes over several years, such as El Niño events, or even decades. Longer-term climate change occurs as a result of changes in intensity and distribution of solar radiation reaching Earth’s surface.

Sunlight Intensity Is a Key Component of Climate; Sunlight Intensity Affects Global Winds, Precipitation Patterns, and Ocean Circulation Which Are All Components of Climate; Regional Climate Patterns; Microclimates; El Niño-Southern Oscillation