When you travel from a coastal area to a high-altitude area you can see some differences. The weather conditions and characteristics of the two places are entirely diverse. Do you know what is the reason behind it? Some vital factors are responsible for this. But one of the main factors is elevation or altitude.
So, how does elevation affect climate? It’s a question to think about.
We can see some significant differences concerning the elevation of a place. Those are temperature, precipitation, moisture in the air, air pressure, and air density.
In mountain regions, we feel colder than in the plains or coaster areas. The rainfall, vegetation, and environments are also quite different there.
Therefore, we can tell that elevation has a vital role in the climate of a region. Here, we discuss these factors in a closer view.
1. What is Climate?
In geographical language, the climate is the average weather pattern of a particular place for the last 30 years. Weather scientists record and consider weather data for at least 30 years to evaluate the climate of a place. They study air pressure, temperature, precipitation, and wind.
As we know, the weather in a place can change in days, months, and years. Therefore, we have to track and watch it on a long-term basis.
2. What is Elevation?
Elevation is the altitude of a place measuring from sea level. Topographic maps are designed to display elevations.
Elevations are typically quantified using units like meters or feet. On maps, they can be represented using contour lines, which link locations at the same height by numerical values or color-coded bands. They indicate the precise elevations of specific points on the Earth’s surface.
3. How Does Climate Change?
Climate change or climatic inconsistencies happen mainly by nature itself. Some interference from humans is also involved. Climatic variations are generally referred to as global warming which is a big headache of the modern era.
For so many years our earth has changed its environmental phenomenon through various natural processes. The results came as climatic variations. Some region is showing much difference in climate change than other.
4. Factors Affecting Climate
There are so many factors that cause different types of climate in different regions. Those factors are:
- Atmospheric circulation
- Distance from the sea
- Air pressure
- Ocean current.
All of the above variables have a crucial role in the climate-changing process. But, here we will explain mainly the relationship between elevation with climate change of a place.
5. Method of Extracting Climatic Data – Ice Cores
Ice Cores are a reliable method of extracting very old climatic data from high altitudes. A 10 cm hole is made on the ice sheet by a drilling machine through certain kilometers. The trapped air bubbles and other gases are studied to get the climatic data of history.
In the year 1990, Europe and the United States successfully conducted deep drilling operations in Greenland. They penetrated through the thick ice sheets to reach the bedrock. This drive rendered approximately 200,000 years’ worth of climatic data.
Subsequently, the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica achieved the remarkable feat of reconstructing around 800,000 years of climate data in 2008. To deduce historical air temperatures from ice cores, scientists employ one of two techniques. Those are, analyzing the air trapped within the ice through the examination of either the deuterium-to-hydrogen ratio or oxygen isotope ratio.
6. How Does Elevation Affect Climate?
The elevation of a place decides how the weather of the place will be. Let us see, how does elevation affect climate? The altitude of a place affects its temperature, air pressure, humidity, air density, and precipitation.
6.1. Elevation Affects Temperature
The changes in temperature of a region are the crucial effect of elevation. We see a notable decrease in temperature with the increasing altitude.
A study says that there are data that suggest a rise in the daily temperature range between altitudes of 0 to 200 meters. On the contrary, a decline was noticed in the range between 750 meters and 3400 meters.
The elevation-dependent temperature patterns are explained as follows:
Elevation’s proximity to the coast is responsible for the temperature increase at lower altitudes. However, at higher altitudes, factors such as increased wind strength or greater cloud cover may contribute to the temperature decrease
6.1.1. How Does Elevation Affect Temperature?
A region’s altitude decides how cold or hot it will be. The atmospheric temperature decreases by 0.7 degrees Centigrade with increasing every 100-meter height of a location due to the lower air density. Also, at high altitudes the dust particles and water vapor present in the atmosphere in very low quantities. The temperature fall is caused by the same reason.
It’s a well-known fact that as you climb higher in the troposphere, both temperature and air pressure start to decrease. It leads to a higher likelihood of rain and snow at higher elevations compared to sea level.
However, once you transition beyond the tropopause you enter the stratosphere, where temperatures start to rise with increasing altitude. Nevertheless, the air density in the stratosphere is too low to give rise to significant weather characteristics at that altitude.
6.1.2. Relationship Between Elevation and Diurnal Temperature Range(DTR)
A study revealed that the Diurnal Temperature Range or DTR of a high-elevation area is comparatively more fluctuating than a low-elevation area.
Scientific research also says that there is no such relation between local climate change with elevation. But DTR plays a significant role in local area climate change.
The most significant diurnal temperature fluctuations occur near the Earth’s surface. Among the various regions on earth, the Andean and Tibetan Plateaus stand out for having one of the most noteworthy differences in daily temperatures.
6.1.3. Nocturnal Inversion
On clear and calm nights, a nocturnal temperature inversion occurs. The temperature rises as you move higher above the earth’s surface. The phenomenon happens due to the cooling down of the air in direct contact with it through conduction.
6.2. Elevation Affects Air Pressure
It is intriguing to observe that as you ascend from the earth’s surface, the air progressively becomes less dense. This phenomenon occurs because of the compression process.
The air that constitutes our breathing environment does possess substantial weight. Our atmosphere consists of various gases like Carbon dioxide and oxygen, alongside minute particles of diverse materials.
As the elevation increases the air pressure comparatively decreases than the ground area. Atmospheric pressure is a crucial factor in determining the climate of a place. There are two main reasons behind it:
- Air situated farther from the earth’s surface got lower weight due to reduced gravitational force and air molecules spread. However, these air molecules are also exerting pressure on the ones below them due to their presence, leading to compression. Conversely, molecules positioned lower in the atmosphere have increased compression and higher pressure. The molecules below have to carry the weight of the ones above them.
- The gravitational pull between air molecules and the earth is more substantial for ground molecules compared to those at a greater distance. This gravitational force gives the closer molecules more weight. Which in turn pulls them closer together and the air pressure increases.
So, it is significant for scientists to know the atmospheric pressure of a region. It helps to get the weather forecast of that location.
6.3. The Mountain Effect of Weather
The movement of cold and warm air exchanging positions generates upward convection currents along the windward slopes of mountains. This process leads to the formation of robust eddy currents near the mountain summits. As the air ascends to higher altitudes, cool moisture condenses, and forms clouds.
These clouds frequently envelop the tall peaks, covering them completely. Precipitation occurs when clouds become saturated and release moisture as rain or snow. Stormy weather frequently occurs when strong winds and heavy precipitation combine.
Conversely, on the downwind side of the mountain slopes, conditions tend to be notably dry. Because the clouds reaching this area lack sufficient moisture for condensation to take place. So, there is a lack of rain.
6.4. Frozen World of Mountainous Regions
The correlation between elevation and the response of surface snowpack to variability and climate change is undeniable. The reason for this is the intricate interplay between alterations in precipitation and temperature. However, the nature of change differs in different parts of the world.
Concerning snow cover, a multifaceted and diverse scenario arises. The fluctuations in snow presence are influenced by elevation, time of year, and geographical position. Those are shaped by a combination of meteorological factors interacting with the landscape’s features. However, air temperature and precipitation primarily govern these variations.
6.5. The Effect of Elevation on Precipitation
In mountainous regions where the elevation is high, you would likely encounter a greater amount of snow or rain compared to the sea level. The reason is that when the moist air rises high it cannot hold the water vapor and is converted into clouds. If the temperature is warm then the precipitation becomes rain and at cool temperatures, it tends to make snowfall.
The lower elevations often receive less precipitation due to moisture being trapped in the atmosphere. But in higher elevations, the temperature is comparatively lower and results in more rain. The relationship between precipitation and elevation is being described here.
6.6. Low Elevation Climate- Inversion Layer Effect
We can notice that in the coastal regions or cities, we feel warmer weather and higher air pressure than in the rest areas. Why its happen? Because, at the ground level, the atmosphere absorbs the sun’s heat and retains warmth.
Low-elevation climate generally consists of less precipitation, little wind activity, warm temperatures, and high air pressure.
Clouds typically sail at lower altitudes above landmasses. That can make the occurrence of precipitation less probable.
The Earth’s surface temperature is not consistently warm. During nighttime or near coastal areas, ground temperatures can be cooler than those at higher elevations. Cold air has a tendency to remain closer to the earth’s surface due to the formation of stagnant air masses. This state of the environment is called the Inversion Layer.
The Inversion layer can endure for extended periods, ranging from days to weeks. When such an inversion layer forms near urban regions, it has the potential to trap smog and pollutants. This may cause a dangerous health risk to individuals with respiratory sensitivities.
6.7. High Elevation Climate
The climate of high elevation is comparatively cooler and the humidity is lesser than in the low regions. For example, Mount Everest, the highest elevation point in the Himalayan mountain range (8848 meters), has been recorded with the lowest temperatures at -76 degrees Fahrenheit.
At greater elevations, the air is less dense, resulting in faster wind speeds and reduced rates of evaporation. When you ascend in altitude, there is a reduced amount of air above you. This leads to a decrease in the air pressure. As this pressure diminishes, air molecules spread more widely, causing the air to expand. As a consequence, the temperature decreases.
A high-elevation climate is characterized by a few distinct features. Those are low temperatures, squally and stronger winds, more precipitations, and low air pressure.
6.7.1. Human Influence on Climate Change of High Altitude
In high altitudes, climate changes become inevitable due to some human activities. Those are, more burning of fossil fuels like coal, and petroleum products in their daily uses, transportation, and industries. As a result, we have witnessed global warming.
In the last few decades, global warming has increased tremendously and has impacted crucially on the high altitude areas. Gradually melting mountains tend to increase the sea level. The mountain range’s climate has also changed.
6.7.2. Climates of High Elevation Affect the Vegetation
Changing climates of high elevation have affected enormously its vegetation. The altitude can affect sunlight exposure, water absorption, and soil nutrients accessible to plants. This variability leads to certain plants excelling at greater heights. Whereas others might exclusively flourish at lower or higher elevations.
Typically, plant life diminishes as elevation rises. The sun-exposed slopes of mountains tend to support more vigorous vegetation growth.
6.7.3. Health Effects of Climate Change in Mountain Region
Climate change is currently and significantly impacting human health through multiple pathways. It is imperative to address this issue urgently to safeguard public health and prevent further damage. This includes causing fatalities and ailments. It happens due to more frequent and severe occurrences of extreme weather events like heatwaves, storms, and floods.
Climate change in mountain regions also involves disturbing food production systems. It amplifies the spread of diseases carried by animals, as well as those transmitted through food, water, and vectors. Mental health problems are also on the rise due to climate change.
Additionally, climate change is eroding various factors that contribute to overall well-being. Those are employment, equity, and the availability of healthcare and social support systems.
Globally, more than 500 million individuals inhabit areas higher than 1,500 meters above sea level. Approximately 100 million people from lower altitudes travel to these zones every year. The influence of climate change on residents of high-altitude regions is contingent. This is not solely upon their geographic location and elevation. But this is also shaped by cultural, socioeconomic, and political considerations.
However, there is a scarcity of available data regarding the impact of climate change on the health of individuals living in mountain ranges. It is unclear how the effects at higher elevations compare to those at lower elevations.
6.8. How Mountains Impact a Location’s Climate?
Mountains impact significantly the climate of a location. As you ascend a mountain, the temperature progressively drops due to the thinning of the air at higher altitudes. It reduces its capacity to capture and hold warmth. The lower temperatures result in reduced evaporation and higher atmospheric moisture content. As a result, the higher regions of the mountain usually receive more rainfall.
The swift fluctuations in temperature and climate have been noticed across the expanse of a mountain. This leads to the possibility of neighboring regions having entirely dissimilar climatic conditions.
High mountains are also the reason behind the higher precipitations. The humid air rises and cools down. It condenses into clouds and the mountain barrier causes precipitation in this region.
Snow reflects substantial solar radiation. So when it melts, the ground absorbs the incoming solar radiation. The phenomenon causes the Earth to heat up, which in turn results in warm air.
The equatorial region is known for its humid and hot weather. But in Ecuador, the highest point of Earth’s equator, the weather is snowy and cold due to its higher elevation only.
6.9. Elevation and Global Warming
Mounting evidence indicates that the pace of temperature increase is magnified as elevation rises. This means that high-altitude environments undergo temperature shifts at a swifter rate compared to lower-elevation areas. The phenomenon is known as elevation-dependent warming or EDW. EDW can accelerate changes in mountain ecosystems, frozen landscapes, water systems, and biodiversity.
In this context, we have to consider some key factors contributing to EDW. Those are:
- Interactions involving snow albedo and surface effects
- The discharge of latent heat and alterations in water vapor
- Fluctuations in water vapor on the earth’s surface and radiative flux
- Shifts in surface heat loss and temperature
- The role of aerosols.
The combination of these factors plays a significant role in rising warming as elevation increases. It is hypothesized that various combinations of these mechanisms might explain diverse regional patterns of EDW.
Further research is required aimed at deepening our insight into temperature patterns within mountainous areas. We also have to know the mechanisms influencing them. For that, we need enhanced observation methods, model simulations, and remote sensing based on satellites.
Ice is melting increasingly in high elevations resulting in the sea level rise. It’s only Due to global warming. This may become a threat to civilization as the coastal region may be flooded shortly. The rivers which get water supply from the glaciers will face a shortage of water.
7. Influence of Climate Change Due to Elevation
- A large amount of the world’s freshwater comes from high-elevation regions, such as mountains. It is crucial to comprehend how climate change will impact these areas. The Tibetan Plateau is home to over 36,000 glaciers that feed into major Asian rivers. Those are the Indus, Brahmaputra, Yellow, Ganges, Mekong, and Yangtze. It plays a direct and indirect role in providing water to the world’s most densely populated region.
- Between 1999 and 2003 some of the glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau are experiencing rapid melting. The observable surface reduction is 0.77 square kilometers annually.
- Additionally, there is a concern that by the year 2100 estimated at 30 to 50% of the world’s mountain glacier mass could potentially be vanished.
- Numerous research investigations have proposed that mountainous areas could be experiencing more apparent global warming. The extended patterns in average annual temperatures were examined. Nonetheless, it is also revealed that mountains indicate similar trends to lowland areas. Nevertheless, considerable distinctions are noticeable when analyzing seasonal and daily temperature variations.
- Some environmentalists researched on below 2000 meters regions. Their analysis indicated that the most substantial warming rates occur in proximity to the annual 0°C isotherm. This finding suggests that the snow and ice albedo feedback mechanism could be contributing to amplifying warming at these particular elevations.
8. It is Crucial to Recognize the Elevation Effect
The altitude of an area has a significant impact on its climate and the patterns of human habitation. Most of the global population resides in coastal lowlands. The elevations of their regions do not exceed 150 meters. However, certain cultures have adjusted to living at higher altitudes.
In Tibet, people reside in areas with elevations up to 5,334 meters. Beyond this elevation, the oxygen levels in the atmosphere are insufficient to support human life. The climate becomes excessively cold for agricultural activities.
Therefore, it is important to recognize the elevation effect of a region. It gives a perfect forecast and an actual idea of the climate of that area. Expert predicts climatic changes in different elevation areas. This information and data would be of great use to them. Now scientists use climate model simulations to evaluate and test their ideas. It helps them for better forecasting of climate.
On the whole, we got a clear idea about the relation of elevation with the climate of a region. How does elevation affect climate? We can say in many ways. As a matter of fact, we have thoroughly analyzed and conclusively established the significant impact of global warming on the environment as a whole.
We noticed that when the elevation of a place changes the temperature and other climatic factors also vary simultaneously. There are big concerns about the water supply. The phenomenon of warming dependent on elevation also has importance for affecting forestry. It also affects the duration of whitewater rafting and ski seasons, as well as impacting tourism.
In brief, whenever we plan to visit a high-elevation area we have to keep these facts in our mind. We can better understand, how the weather would be there at that time. Also, we get to know what adverse effects could come to our health.[amazon_auto_links id="280559"]