Climate in the Northern vs Southern Hemispheres

Night sky and the Milky Way in Botswana the Southern Hemisphere
Matt Mawson / Getty Images

You may think that weather is virtually the same worldwide, but on the contrary, the type of weather you experience is somewhat unique to which part of the world you live in. Events like tornadoes, which are commonplace here in the United States, are a rarity in other countries. Storms we call "hurricanes" are known by another name in the world's far oceans. And perhaps one of the most well known—which season you're in depends on which hemisphere (which side, north or south, of the equator you're on)—Northern or Southern—you live in.

Why do the Northern and Southern Hemispheres see opposite seasons? We'll explore this answer, plus other ways their weather is strikingly different from the others. 

1. Our Opposite Hemispheres Have Opposite Seasons

December may be ... but our neighbors in the Southern Hemisphere rarely ever see snow on Christmas (except in Antarctica) for one simple reason—December begins their summer season. 

How can this be? The reason why is the same as why we experience seasons at all—the Earth's tilt.

Our planet doesn't "sit" perfectly upright, but rather, leans 23.5° from its axis (the imaginary vertical line through Earth's center which points toward the North Star). As you may know, this tilt is what gives us the seasons. It also orients the Northern and Southern Hemispheres in opposite directions so that whenever one points its innermost toward the sun, the other aims away from the sun.

  Northern Hemisphere Southern Hemisphere
Winter Solstice December 21/22 June
Spring Equinox March 20/21 September
Summer Solstice June 20/21 December
Fall Equinox September 22/23 March

2. Our Hurricanes and Low-Pressure Systems Spin in Opposite Directions

In the Northern Hemisphere, the Coriolis force, a which deflects to the right, gives hurricanes their signature counter-clockwise spin. but spin counter-clockwise. Because Earth rotates to the east, all free-moving objects such as wind, low-pressure areas, and hurricanes are deflected to the right of their path of motion in the Northern Hemisphere and to the left in the Southern Hemi.

There's a misconception that because of the Coriolis force, even water in bathrooms spirals clockwise down the drain—but this isn't true! Toilet water isn't of a large enough scale for the Coriolis force so its effects on it are negligible. 

3. Our Milder Climate

Take a moment to compare a map or globe of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres...what do you notice? That's right! There's more landmass north of the equator and more ocean to its south. And since we know that water warms and cools more slowly than land does, we can guess that the Southern Hemisphere has a milder climate than the Northern Hemisphere,

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Your Citation
Means, Tiffany. "Climate in the Northern vs Southern Hemispheres." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Means, Tiffany. (2023, April 5). Climate in the Northern vs Southern Hemispheres. Retrieved from Means, Tiffany. "Climate in the Northern vs Southern Hemispheres." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 5, 2023).