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1.4.2: Geographical Zones

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    Natural systems of climate, vegetation, and soil change substantially as one travels from the equator to the pole due largely to the latitudinal variation in energy input to the earth system. The early Greek scholar Aristotle was the first to divide the Earth into zones based on climate. His "torrid zone", thought to be too hot for human habitation, lay between 23.5o N and 23.5o S. Aristotle thought that the "temperate zones" between 23.5o N - 66.5o N and 23.5o S - 66.5o S were the only livable zones. From the arctic (66.5 N) and and antarctic circles (66.5 S) to the the poles (90 N and S) were the uninhabitable "frigid zones".

    Torrid Zone
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1a}\): Torrid Zone

    (Image Source: WikiMedia)

    Temperate Zone
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1b}\): Temperate Zones

    (Image Source: WikiMedia)

    Frigid Zones
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1c}\): Frigid Zones

    (Image Source: WikiMedia)

    Geographers continue to use latitudinal variation of climate characteristics as a way of dividing the Earth into fairly homogeneous geographical zones. These zones are:

    Equatorial: 10o N - 10o S

    Tropical:  10oN - 25oN and 10oS - 25oS

    Subtropical: 25oN - 35oN and 25oS - 35oS
    Midlatitude: 35oN - 55oN  and 35oS - 55oS

    Subarctic: 55oN - 60oN

    Subantarctic: 55oS - 60oS

    Arctic: 60oN - 75oN

    Antarctic: 60oS - 75oS

    North Polar: 75oN - 90oN

    South Polar: 75oS - 90oS

    [Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\) Geographical Zones Not Available Yet]

    The equatorial zone is characterized by warm temperatures and nearly uniform day length throughout the year. The boundary of the tropical zone lies close to the Tropic of Cancer (23.5oN) and Capricorn (23.5oS), the latitudinal limit where the Sun is directly over head at noon at different times of the year. The subtropical zone includes Aristotle's home of Greece, and seasonal changes in temperature become more pronounced. The temperate midlatitude zone is noted for is variable weather conditions. Large annual swings in temperature are characteristic of the subarctic and subantarctic zone where extensive areas of cold air form during winter and milder conditions prevail during summer. The coldest zones are the Arctic and Antarctic, where the Sun never rises above the horizon for several months at a time. Much of the light that does reach the surface is reflected off the light colored surfaces of the North (sea ice) and South (mostly glacial ice) poles. The coldest zones are the North and South Polar. Like the Arctic and Antarctic Zones, the Sun never rises above the horizon for many months of the year. The coldest temperatures are near the South Pole, far from any moderating influence of an ocean and the little light that does make it to the surface is reflected from glacier ice.

    This page titled 1.4.2: Geographical Zones is shared under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Michael E. Ritter (The Physical Environment) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.

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