Resource Library

ENCYCLOPEDIC ENTRY
ENCYCLOPEDIC ENTRY

Tropics

Tropics

The tropics are regions of Earth that lie roughly in the middle of the globe.

Grades

5 - 8

Subjects

Earth Science, Geography, Human Geography, Meteorology, Physical Geography

The tropics are regions of Earth that lie roughly in the middle of the globe. The tropics between the latitude lines of the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. The tropics include the Equator and parts of North America, South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia. The tropics account for 36 percent of Earth's landmass and are home to about a third of the world's people.

The tropics are warm all year, averaging 25 to 28 degrees Celsius (77 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit). This is because the tropics get more exposure to the sun. Because of all that sun, the tropics don't experience the kind of seasons the rest of Earth does. The tropical seasons are broken up into just two: the wet season and the dry season.

The amount of rain can vary greatly from one area of the tropics to another. Some areas, like parts of the Amazon Basin in South America, get almost three meters (nine feet) of rain per year. Other areas in the tropics have a drier climate. The Sahara Desert in northern Africa only gets two to 10 centimeters (0.79 to 3.9 inches) of rain per year.

The amount of rain a region gets in the tropics directly affects which plant and animal species live there. The baobab tree thrives in the arid tropics of Africa, for instance. The baobab stores water in its huge trunk. On the other extreme is the rainy island of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka gets enough precipitation to support 250 species of frogs.

Fast Fact

The Snows of Kilimanjaro
Elevation can affect the climate of a tropical region. Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, with an elevation of 5,895 meters (19,340 feet), is a tropical mountain cold enough to support glaciers.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Writers
Hilary Costa
Erin Sprout
Santani Teng
Melissa McDaniel
Jeff Hunt
Diane Boudreau
Tara Ramroop
Kim Rutledge
Hilary Hall
Illustrators
Mary Crooks, National Geographic Society
Tim Gunther
Editors
Jeannie Evers, Emdash Editing, Emdash Editing
Kara West
Educator Reviewer
Nancy Wynne
Producer
National Geographic Society
other
Last Updated

December 1, 2022

For information on user permissions, please read our Terms of Service. If you have questions about licensing content on this page, please contact ngimagecollection@natgeo.com for more information and to obtain a license. If you have questions about how to cite anything on our website in your project or classroom presentation, please contact your teacher. She or he will best know the preferred format. When you reach out to him or her, you will need the page title, URL, and the date you accessed the resource.

Media

If a media asset is downloadable, a download button appears in the corner of the media viewer. If no button appears, you cannot download or save the media.

Text

Text on this page is printable and can be used according to our Terms of Service.

Interactives

Any interactives on this page can only be played while you are visiting our website. You cannot download interactives.

Related Resources