Interesting facts about the tropics

The tropics are regions of the Earth that lie roughly in the middle of the globe.

This region is also referred to as the tropical zone and the torrid zone.

The tropics are delimited in latitude by the Tropic of Cancer in the Northern Hemisphere and the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere.

The tropics are at latitudes 23.5 degrees north and 23.5 degrees degrees south.

They include all zones on Earth where the Sun contacts a point directly overhead at least once during the solar year (which is a subsolar point). Thus the maximum latitudes of the tropics have the same value positive and negative. Likewise, they approximate, due to the earth not being a perfect sphere, the “angle” of the Earth’s axial tilt. The “angle” itself is not perfectly fixed due chiefly to the influence of the moon, but the limits of tropics are a geographic convention, being an averaged form, and the variance is very small.

The tropics include the Equator and parts of North America, South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia.

The tropics account for 40% of Earth’s surface areaand contain 36% of Earth’s landmass and are home to about a third of the world’s people.

They receive sunlight that is more direct than the rest of Earth and are generally hotter and wetter.

Many features combine to make up the diverse climates of the Tropics. It is a warm region – mean annual temperatures exceed 20°C almost throughout the Tropics, except at high elevations, and exceed 25°C in many parts of the tropical zone.

The tropical zone encompasses some of the wettest locations on Earth, as well as some of the world’s driest deserts.

It also includes some of the world’s communities most vulnerable to natural disasters – population pressures drive settlement of flood or drought prone areas, and less developed countries lack the resources to create resilience to extremes of climate.

The tropical zone is also characterised by consistent warmth and very small day-to-day temperature fluctuations.

While tropical climates are characterised by small variations in temperature, they include an immense variety of rainfall regimes.

The amount of rain a region gets in the tropics directly affects which plant and animal species live there. The baobab tree thrives in the arid tropics of Africa, for instance. The baobab stores water in its huge trunk. On the other extreme is the rainy island of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka gets enough precipitation to support 250 species of frogs.

The word “tropics” comes from Greek tropos meaning “turn”, because the apparent position of the Sun moves between the two tropics within a year.

The word “Tropical” specifically means places near the equator. The word is also sometimes used in a general sense for a tropical climate, a climate that is warm to hot and moist year-round.

This includes tropical rainforests with lush vegetation. However, there are mountains in the tropics that are anything but “tropical” in this sense, with even alpine tundra and snow-capped peaks, including Mauna Kea, Mt. Kilimanjaro, and the Andes as far south as the northernmost parts of Chile and Argentina. Places in the tropics which are hot and dry include the Atacama Desert, Sahara Desert, Central Africa, most parts of Western Africa and Northern Australian Outback.

People in some tropical places call their seasons “dry”/”hot” and “rainy”/”wet”, especially where the seasons are made by monsoons. Tropical cyclones form in tropical ocean areas, and some move from there into the temperate zone. Tropical plants and animals are native to the tropics or the Torrid zone.

Tropicality refers to the image that people outside the tropics have of the region. It encompassed two images. One, is that the tropics represent a ‘Garden of Eden’, a heaven on Earth, a land of rich biodiversity – aka a tropical paradise. The alternative is that the tropics consist of wild,
unconquerable nature. The latter view was often discussed in old Western literature more so than the first. Evidence suggests over time that the view of the tropics as such in popular literature has been supplanted by more well-rounded and sophisticated interpretations.

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