How Climate Works main content.

How Climate Works

What causes climate and climate change section of the Hall of Planet Earth. Large screen shows a satellite image of Earth. AMNH/D. Finnin

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Energy from the Sun drives climate by heating Earth's surface unevenly. Solar energy is concentrated near the equator, delivering more heat to the tropics and less to the poles. Ice also reflects incoming sunlight, cooling the poles even more. The temperature difference sets the ocean and atmosphere in motion as they work together to distribute heat around the planet. Movement of heat by the atmosphere and ocean gives rise to climate and weather.