Importance of Natural Resources

Subtropical Highlands – Secrets of World Climate, Episode 3


There are places on this planet, where altitude
and latitude combine to form a harmonious, temperate balance. High in the clouds of the tropics, there is
an escape from the humidity and heat of the forests and plains below. These mountains, valleys and plateaux are
places of flourishing cities, breath-taking beauty and the setting of unique cultures
and history. Defined by their special climate, these are
the world’s Subtropical Highlands. So far in this series, we’ve been looking
at the hot and humid climates of the tropics – the Rainforest, the Monsoon and the Savannah. Before we leave the tropics and head to greater
latitudes, however, there is one final type of climate here that we cannot overlook, and
that is the one in the highland regions near the equator. As one increases in altitude, the temperature
of the air decreases – this is evident to anyone who looks up at a high mountain and
sees snow on its summit. But in the tropics, where the temperature
at sea level is high, there is a wide band of altitudes that produce mild and pleasant
temperatures all year round. This year-round mildness is unique among all
world climates, and has made these regions attractive for human settlement throughout
history, offering increased comfort, and avoidance of tropical diseases, such as malaria. There are two variations within the Koppen
Climate Classification, distinguished by rainfall patterns. The first, Cwb, is the most common, and this
is basically a high-altitude cooler version of the Tropical Monsoon and Savannah climates
that we covered in the last episode. It is characterised by a distinct wet and
dry season. The other, Cfb, is, like the first, a cooler
high altitude equivalent of a lowland tropical climate, in this case, the Tropical Rainforest. With Cfb we find no dry season, and rain all
year round. It is a quirk of geography, that we find this climate
very similar to that of the Oceanic climate of Britain and North-West Europe, in that
it is cool and moderate with rain all year round. More, much more about that one in a future
episode. So where in the world do we find the Sub-Tropical
Highlands? In terms of latitude they’re between the Tropics
of Cancer and Capricorn – 23 degrees north and south of the equator. And these areas are high up, usually between
1500 and 4000m (5,000 to 13,000 feet). Starting in the Americas, we find the densely
populated central valley of Mexico, home to that country’s capital and mega city of
the same name, and once home to the famous Aztec Empire. Onto South America, and Colombia and Ecuador
are the two countries that are dominated by the rarer Cfb variant of the Subtropical Highland
climate that gives year-round rain. Almost all of the major cities in these countries
are packed into the high valleys of the Andes that run through this area, including the
capitals of Bogota and Quito. Heading further south, we encounter the highlands
of Peru and Bolivia, once the home of the Inca Empire and now home to, among others the highest capital city in the world – La Paz of Bolivia. Moving across now to Africa, and almost all
the lands within this climate zone follow a line north to south along the huge Rift
Valley that dominates the eastern part of this continent. Starting in the north and we find the heart
of Ethiopia and its capital Addis Ababa. As we head south, we encounter the high plains
of Kenya and its capital Nairobi. Parts of Uganda, Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and
Tanzania intersect this climate where the lands rise up high enough. Much of Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe are high
enough to experience this mild climate, including all these countries’ capital cities. At the southern tip of the continent, we find
the north eastern heart of South Africa coming within this climate zone, including that nation’s
capital of Pretoria, and its largest city, Johannesburg. The last continent to experience the Subtropical
Highland climate is Asia, where, in the southern foothills of the Himalayan mountains, altitudes
are in the sweet spot to provide an all year round spring to Kashmir in northern Pakistan,
the northern extremes of India, much of Nepal, including its capital Kathmandu, and a large
swathe of Yunnan Province in south-west China. Far to the south of the Himalayas, upland areas of southern India and Sri Lanka also experience this climate. So what kind of landscapes and agriculture
do we find in the subtropical highlands? Well, that depends upon altitude, and how
much rainfall we see. In uncultivated land, the lower reaches are
covered in either thick forests, such as the well-known “cloud-forests” of the Andes
that are extensions of the Tropical Rainforest, or grasslands which are merely extensions of
the Savannah, most notably in Africa. Higher up we find unusual plants specifically
designed to withstand the higher altitudes, and are unique to this climate. When it comes to land cultivated by humans,
we find spectacular landscapes carved out of the hillsides – terraced farming in abundance,
rice in Asia in the present day, and corn in the once-Inca Empire of South America. And the most remarkable fact I’ve saved
until last. Because the Subtropical Highland climate has
two very special plants. One produces a leaf, another a bean. Each of these makes up a drink, and between
them they drive our working world. They are probably the most widely drunk beverages
throughout the globe. I’m talking, of course, about tea and coffee,
and they’re uniquely suited to this climate, not growing easily anywhere else. So that’s it for this climate zone. I hope you found it as surprising as it was
enlightening. As always, I encourage you to share this video
with those you know, and if you haven’t already done so, please subscribe to this
YouTube channel so you don’t miss future episodes. If you are passionate about our
planet and want to the support the production of this series, you can contribute via my
Patreon page. I want to thank especially the many drone
pilots and cameramen who gave permission for their remarkable footage to be shown this
video, in particular Milosh Kitchovitch and Thomas Noisel. You can check out their channels, and all
the others listed via links in the text that accompanies this video. Thanks again for watching, and I’ll see
you in the next episode.


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