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The tropics, seated in the equatorial regions of the world, are limited in latitude by the Tropic of Cancermarker in the northern hemisphere at approximately 23°26' (23.4°) N latitude and the Tropic of Capricornmarker in the southern hemisphere at 23°26' (23.4°) S latitude. The tropics are also referred to as the tropical zone and the torrid zone (see geographical zone).

The tropics include all the areas on The Earth where the sun reaches a point directly overhead and a point directly underneath at least once during the solar year. In the temperate zones, the sun never reaches the zenith or the nadir and is never directly overhead or directly underneath, always passing south of the zenith in the northern hemisphere, north of the zenith in the southern hemisphere, south of the nadir in the southern hemisphere and north of the nadir in the northern hemisphere.

Tropical seasons and climate

The seasons in the tropics are dominated by the movement of the tropical rain belt (or ITCZ), which moves from the northern to the southern tropics and back over the course of a year, resulting in a dry season and a wet season rather than the various temperatures and day lengths indicative of the spring, summer, autumn and winter pattern found in areas outside the tropics.

However, the starting dates of the seasons are related to the tropics, despite the fact that these dates only apply in the temperate and polar regions with only the winter solstice date applying in the tropics because the summer solstice occurs when the sun is at the zenith, which occurs at different dates for different latitudes. Spring begins when the sun is directly over the equator (vernal equinox). Summer begins when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancermarker in the north or when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Capricornmarker in the south (summer solstice). Autumn begins when the sun is again directly over the equator (autumnal equinox). Winter begins when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Capricornmarker in the north or when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancermarker in the south (winter solstice).

Tropical is sometimes used in a general sense for a tropical climate that is warm to hot and moist year-round, often with the sense of lush vegetation. However, there are places in the tropics that are anything but "tropical" in this sense, with even alpine tundra and snow-capped peaks, including Mauna Keamarker, Mt.marker Kilimanjaromarker, and the Andes as far south as the northernmost parts of Chilemarker and Argentinamarker. Under the Köppen climate classification, much of the area within the geographical tropics is classed not as "tropical" but as "dry" (arid or semi-arid) including the Sahara Desert and Australian Outback.

Tropical ecosystems

Tropical plants and animals are those species native to the tropics.Tropical ecosystems may consist of rainforests, dry deciduous forests, spiny forests, desert and other habitat types. There are often significant areas of biodiversity, and species endemism present particularly in rainforests and dry deciduous forests. Some examples of important biodiversity and/or high endicism ecosystems are: Costa Ricanmarker and Nicaraguanmarker rainforests, Brazilianmarker and Venezuelanmarker Amazon Rainforest territories, Madagascar dry deciduous forests, Waterberg Biosphere of South Africa and eastern Madagascarmarker rainforests. Often the soils of tropical forests are low in nutrient content making them quite vulnerable to slash-and-burn techniques, which are sometimes an element of shifting cultivation agricultural systems.

In biogeography, the tropics are divided into paleotropics (Africa, Asia and Australia) and neotropics (Central and South America). Together, they are sometimes referred to as the pantropics. The neotropic region should not be confused with the ecozone of the same name; in the Old World, this is unambiguous as the paleotropics correspond to the Afrotropical, Indomalayan, and partly the Australasian and Oceanic ecozones.

About 40 percent of the world's human population lives within the tropical zone (by 2008 statistics), and by 2060 60% of the human population will be in the tropics due to high birth rates and heavy migration to the tropics.

See also

External links

  • Tropen, Goethe-Institut (bilingual web site English/German with many informations and extracts from novels, short stories, essays, etc. written by explorers, conquerors and writers since the discovery of the so called New World)


  1. GeoHive population statistics

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