NEWTON: Troposphere Temperature and Location
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Name: Kaden
Status: student
Grade: 6-8
Location: OR
Country: USA
Date: Winter 2012-2013

Air in the troposphere is heated from the bottom up by heat given off by the surface. If the sun shines equally on Seattle, WA (near water) and Bismark, ND (near the center of the US), which would get hotter during the day?


Bismark would get hotter because the land will heat up faster than the water that surrounds Seattle.

You should be able to witness this yourself on the beach in Oregon, although the beach just North of the Santa Barbara mountains are a really vivid example. During the day, the land heats faster than the water, and as the air over the land is heated it rises which draws in cooler air that was over the ocean. These are called sea breezes and typically occur in the mid to late afternoon, then calm after the sun sets.

Down in Lompoc, California, every afternoon about 3:30, the sea breeze winds up to between 45 to 50 Miles per Hour due to this phenomenon. One time these winds blew down electric power lines which started a fire which burned half of Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Sincere regards, Mike Stewart

Bismark will get far hotter. Seattle is near the ocean which absorbs the sunlight. There is so much water around that the water never gets too hot. That means it will not heat up the air above it and things will be cooler. Bismark is surrounded by land which heats up and gets the air above it hot like a parking lot on a hot sunny day.

Hope this helps. Bob Avakian


Unfortunately, your question can not be easily answered.

Heating of the air above the surface is affected by many factors, including the amount of water at the surface that can be evaporated by the sun (which is controlled by soil moisture, plant density and coverage and health, the gradient of vapor pressure between the air and surface, the wind speed, etc.), the type of surface (some surfaces absorb and re-radiate more radiation than others, while some are more reflective), percentage of clouds and type and height of clouds (which can absorb, transmit, and re-radiate radiation), the wind speed (and thus enhancement of energy loss from the surface by higher wind speeds), amongst others.

Being near water does not necessarily change the ability of the adjacent land to contribute to heating of the air above. However, it may result in different local atmospheric circulations, such as the production of sea breezes, which may reduce the local heating of the air above the surface.

David R. Cook Meteorologist Atmospheric and Climate Research Program Environmental Science Division

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