The climate in a particular part of the world will influence its vegetation and wildlife, so is fundamental to life on Earth.
Weather and climate
Weather describes the condition of the atmosphere. It might be sunny, hot, windy or cloudy, raining or snowing. Climate means the average weather conditions in a particular location based on the average weather experienced there over 30 years or more. Global climate zones with similar flora, fauna and climate are called biomes.
The weather takes into account the temperature, precipitation, humidity and atmospheric pressure of the part of atmosphere (air) closest to the surface of the earth.
The weather is constantly changing as temperature and humidity change in the atmosphere. Landmasses, such as the British Isles, experience constantly changing weather conditions.
Climate refers to what is expected to happen in the atmosphere rather than the actual conditions. It is possible for the weather to be different from that suggested by the climate.
- Climatic conditions in an area can be affected by the landscape, relief and activities taking place (both human and natural). Climate can alter over time and space.
- Within a climatic region, the climate may vary from place to place – eg the top of a hill, the sunny side of a hill, the shaded side of a hill and the bottom of a hill. These areas with their small variations are called microclimates.
Global distribution of climates
Climates are influenced by many factors, such as proximity to the equator or the poles and proximity to the sea, as well as things like ocean currents, atmospheric pressure belts and prevailing winds.
A place’s climate influences the types of vegetation and animals that live there. It is possible to divide the world into a number of climatic zones or biomes, each with their own characteristic climate, vegetation and wildlife.
Learn more about the world’s nine major biomes and view an animation of their distribution throughout the world.