The Physical Environment

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Chapter 5
Air Temperature

South Pole Station
(Credit NOAA)

South Pole Station, Antarctica, one of the coldest places on Earth

The temperature of our atmosphere is controlled by a complex set of interactions between the biosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere. Energy is constantly  exchanged between the surface and the air above, as well as circulating around the globe. Here we'll look at what controls the air temperature at a particular place by examining radiation and energy exchanges between the earth and air above. Then we'll examine how the global circulation of air and water affects air temperature.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the chapter you should be able to:

  • Define temperature and describe how air temperature is measured.
  • Explain what controls daily and seasonal temperature variations.
  • Determine the temperature gradient using isotherms.
  • Calculate average daily and annual temperature, daily and annual temperature range, determine seasonal temperature lag.
  • Explain the global pattern of air temperature.
  • Summarize the effects of global warming on temperature patterns.

See if you are ready for this chapter by Getting Ready for Chapter 5: Air Temperature.

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For Citation: Ritter, Michael E. The Physical Environment: an Introduction to Physical Geography.
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Michael Ritter (
Last revised 6/5/12


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