A number of factors influence the climates found around the globe. These factors are often referred to as controls. We will discuss these controls in more detail in other chapters. Only a brief summary will be provided here.
The first of these controls is latitude. Latitude is the angular measurement in degrees of the distance from the equator to any location on the Earth. The latitude of a location determines the amount of sunlight that a location receives. The higher your latitude, the less sunlight you will receive throughout the year, and the cooler will be your climate. Locations near the equator receive vast amounts of sunlight throughout the year and as a result are warm year round. Locations near the poles get very little sunlight and as a result are cool year round.
The distribution of water and land across the surface of the Earth is another important control that regulates climate. Water responds to temperature change much more slowly than does land. It takes longer to heat water, and longer for it to cool down. As a result, locations near the oceans experience milder changes in climate.
Another important control is the circulation of water and air. Both the atmosphere, as well as the oceans are in constant motion. These motions carry heat around the world in regular patterns. Warm air and water are transported up towards the poles, while cool air and water are transported down towards the equator.
Mountains can often act as barriers, diverting wind and moisture, affecting the climate in the areas around it. The side of a mountain facing the wind will have a climate very different from that of the other side of the mountain. Often mountains create a vast shadow where rain can seldom fall. With rainfall being blocked by vast mountain ranges, these areas become deserts.