Date: Spring 2014
How does latitude and elevation affect Missouri's climate?
Latitude and elevation affect the short term weather, and therefore longer term climate, in just about any location on Earth. It is important to make the distinction between weather and climate because the time scales of the two are very different.
Generally, the greater the elevation and the greater the latitude, the lower the average daily average, minimum, and maximum temperatures will be. In locations where there is snow in the winter, the greater the elevation and the greater the latitude, the more likely that you will receive snow in the winter (such as upper Minnesota or in the Rocky Mountains), as opposed to rain (such as Florida or in low elevation areas along the seashore).
However, Long term climate can vary for the same elevation and latitude in the United States, depending on where in the country that is. In the Central Great Plains the maximum and minimum temperatures for a month or year can be much lower than it is in the valleys of Virginia. That is because the Central Plains are exposed to cold Arctic outbreaks during the winter, whereas Virginia rarely is (this past winter being an exception to that rule). So weather patterns averaged over a long period also determine the climate of a location to a great degree.
David R. Cook
Meteorologist / Team Lead
Atmospheric and Climate Research Program
Environmental Science Division
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Update: November 2011