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PHYSICS illustrated
February 20, 1998
UNDERSTANDING NATURAL PHENOMENA RELATING TO THE EQUATOR CAN BE TOUGH: SOME OF THE CONCEPTS ARE ABSTRACT, ABSTRUSE AND DARNED HARD. WHAT YOU NEED IS A REALLY NICE MODEL TO BRING THESE IDEAS TO LIFE. WE GOT CAPRICE
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February 20, 1998

Physics Illustrated

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UNDERSTANDING NATURAL PHENOMENA RELATING TO THE EQUATOR CAN BE TOUGH: SOME OF THE CONCEPTS ARE ABSTRACT, ABSTRUSE AND DARNED HARD. WHAT YOU NEED IS A REALLY NICE MODEL TO BRING THESE IDEAS TO LIFE. WE GOT CAPRICE

ARE PEOPLE ON THE EQUATOR REALLY MOVING FASTER THAN THE REST OF US?

Yes. The Earth is a sphere that rotates on its north-south axis every 24 hours. Like a runner in the outside lane who has to run faster (and farther) to keep pace with a runner in an inside lane, a person standing on the equator is moving faster than a person standing near the axis. At the equator, the Earth is moving at 1,038 mph. The velocity drops to 899 mph at 30� latitude, 519 mph at 60� and 0 mph at the north and south poles.

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WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WARM AND COLD AIR COLLIDE?

During fall, winter and most of spring, winds move cold air from the polar regions toward the equator and warm air from the tropics toward the poles. When two of these fronts collide, the moist, warm air is forced upward by the heavier cold air; this causes condensation, which leads to precipitation-rain, snow or hail, depending on just how cold the cold front is.

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WHY IS IT SO HOT AT THE EQUATOR?

The Sun's rays hit the equator straight-on, whereas at every other point on Earth they hit the atmosphere at an angle, which dissipates some of their energy. On average the equator receives 2.5 times more heat from the Sun's rays than the polar regions do.

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