Elevation can play a large role in a region’s climate. As an example, places at high altitudes are generally cooler than those closer to sea level. Mountain ranges also serve to influence the planet’s general circulation by diverting large scale phenomena such as the jet stream to the north or south. Sharp changes in elevation also can affect smaller scale things as well, like moist air masses which tend to drop rain as they move up mountain slopes often leading to the formation of deserts on the leeward side of mountain ranges.
Besides simple climate variables, mountains can affect other components of a region’s environmental composition. The mountain’s sloping sides lends itself to erosion and the subsequent build up of fertile soils in the lower protected valleys. Water as well runs down the steep mountain slopes cutting valleys and canyons, further changing the landscape.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and U.S. National Geophysical Data Center, TerrainBase, release 1.0 (CD-ROM), Boulder, Colo.
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