Why isn't the weather the same at equal distances from the equator?

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Aimee Fleming  asked the Naked Scientists:

I am currently doing a Graduate Diploma of Education (primary) in our science class this question was asked of us and I was wondering if there is somebody that maybe able to help answer it or forward it on to somebody that could. If this is not possible can you please let me know of how else to email to help solve this problem. The question is as follows.

"Ballarat, Victoria, Australia is about 37 degrees south of the Equator. All of France is above 40 degrees North (Paris is over 48 Degrees North). If France is further away from the equator, why is the weather there so much more benign? How might children investigate one issue associated with this?"

I would much appreciate the help.

Aimee Fleming

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 15/04/2011 09:10:59 by chris »


Offline LeeE

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I think that the greatest single factor is probably the ratio of land to water in each hemisphere i.e. there's a lot more land in the Northern hemisphere than there is in the Southern hemisphere.
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Offline SkepticSam

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I don't know which part of Victoria , ballerat is in, and there are different climates in Victoria. Such as a hot dry region and an alpine region.

Even the French climate has different influences and regional variations. So this is a very general reply.

As LeeE has said "the ratio of land to water" is a factor. The fact that Australia is a relatively small piece of land in a large body of water and France is a continental country does make a difference. The distribution of high and low pressure weather systems is another. 
Then there is La Nina, El Nino and the ENSO as well as the IOD that impact the Australian climate.
France is influenced by the Fohn effect, mountain ranges continental and marine influenced air masses, various degrees of humidity, Mediterranean and sub arctic air also the NAO.

But let's not forget one large difference is the type and distribution, or lack of, vegetation and the differing soil types. These can seriously alter the climate as can be seen by the different climate zones in Victoria. Look at those zones and compare the climate to the type and extent of the vegetation. 

Here are two activities you may want to use.

Comparing heat absorption in different soils [nofollow]

Differential heating of land and ocean [nofollow]


Offline Stefanb

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Climates are affected by:
Air Masses
Mountain Barriers
Ocean Currents
Pressure Cells

Latitude is only one factor in the many that comprise climate.
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Offline SkepticSam

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Here are a few links about the Australian climate. They don't directly answer your question but they are interesting.

Climate of Australia [nofollow]

Climate of Victoria [nofollow]

how El Nino and La Nina affect the Australian Climate PDF File [nofollow]

And a couple about the French climate.

 Climate and the weather in France [nofollow]

French weather [nofollow]


Offline SkepticSam

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Another answer to the pot Dave. Sadly this is where the "here's a question emailed to the show" type questions break down. There is (as yet) no input from the person asking the question. It would be nice to know what answer Aimee was given by her lecturer.