Every part of the world has its own climate—a characteristic pattern of weather over a long period of time. A region’s climate affects the types of plants and animals found there, and also how people live—for example, the types of houses they build and the clothes they wear.
An area’s climate is affected by three main factors—its latitude (distance north or south of the equator), its height above sea level, and its distance from the sea. Tropical regions around the equator have a hot climate. Temperatures cool toward the poles. The climate is also cooler on high mountains. Seas and oceans generally make coastal climates mild and wet.
Because Earth is a globe with a curved surface, the Sun’s rays strike parts of its surface at different angles. Regions on or near the equator have a hot climate because the Sun’s rays beat down on them more directly and the rays are more concentrated than at regions near the poles.
Regions in the center of continents usually have more extreme weather than regions near the coast, with hot summers and cold winters. Land surfaces heat up and cool down more quickly than large areas of water, such as oceans. Areas farther inland therefore experience extreme temperature variations between summer and winter.