Everywhere we look on this blue planet we inhabit, we see enormous vivacity, variety and magnificence. We see very different plants and even human races on each of its continents. There is no doubt that these things are manifestations of the variety in Almighty Allah's creation and of our Lord’s title of As-Sani (the Artist, the Creator of great beauty in artistry). But because the world is a place of test, Almighty Allah has created all things by way of natural causes. One of these causes underlying the variety of life on Earth is climate.
Scientifically, climate is described as the combined effect of atmospheric factors upon a particular location. God has made the atmosphere the most important element in determining climate.
Scientific experiments have proved that there can be no life where there is no atmosphere. The atmosphere is made up of 79% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 0.03% carbon dioxide and trace amounts of gasses such as helium, neon, krypton and argon. It also contains water vapour and various organic and inorganic substances. Through these features of the atmosphere, Almighty Allah had made the earth a place capable of sustaining life.
The Atmosphere’s Effects on Climate
Adhering to the planet because of the force of gravity, this state of the atmosphere means it is never static. On the contrary, the atmosphere has exhibited great dynamism since the day it was created. Although the Earth’s surface has cooled recently, the effect of the Sun continues to be felt. For that reason, the activity in the atmosphere linked to the effect of the Sun emerges as various climate phenomena such as heat, rain and winds.
Another noteworthy point is that despite the considerable activity of the atmosphere, its thickness and mass on the Earth’s surface are the same everywhere. Such a state of affairs cannot be accounted for in terms of chance. The regular order in the existence on Earth is not possible unless there is a governing power to regulate it. Almighty Allah, Creator of all things, has revealed that He maintains the Earth and Sky under His dominion and control: “Allah keeps a firm hold on the heavens and earth, preventing them from vanishing away. And if they vanished no one could then keep hold of them. Certainly He is Most Forbearing, Ever-Forgiving.”
(Surah Fatir, 41)
As we know, much of the heat given off by the Sun’s rays as they reach the Earth is retained by the atmosphere. This phenomenon gives rise to atmospheric warming. At night, part of that retained heat is lost. The point of note here is that not all the heat retained by the atmosphere disappears. This filtering effect of the atmosphere prevents excessive heat or cold. If the days were very hot and the nights bitterly cold, then life would be even harder than it is in deserts.
Allah Created the Seas and Land in Specific Proportions
The structural differences between the seas and the land cause the oceans and dry land to warm up and cool down at different rates. The sea warms and cools down again relatively later than the land, making the seas more heat-retentive. This softens the harsher climatic features of the land. In addition, because of the moisture bearing characteristics of the seas, they represent a means by which rain falls. Almighty Allah reveals the following about the winds in another verse: “He Who guides you in the darkness of land and sea and sends out the winds bringing advance news of His mercy. Is there another god besides Allah? May Allah be exalted above what they associate with Him!” (Surat an-Naml, 63)
Another impact of the seas on climate is the hot and cold ocean currents. In theory, the oceans at higher latitudes should be cool and those at lower latitudes warm. But because of the different ocean currents affecting to coastal regions, they may have very different climate types despite being on the same latitude.
Allah Has Created Surface Forms in Such a Way as to Influence Air Masses
Land masses have different shapes and protrusions. The air becomes cooler as the high one goes on these surface bodies. The temperature drops by 10 degrees centigrade every 250 metres. That is why even if all the conditions between sea level and mountains and plateaus remain the same, there are still significant temperature differences. Thanks to the way that temperatures fall as altitude rises, settlement areas have been founded at high elevations in warm latitudes. Like so settled areas in the Andes in South America are more than 1,000 metres high. In one verse of the Qur’an, Almighty Allah reveals that He has made the mountains shelters and shirts for us: “He has made shelters for you in the mountains and He has made shirts for you to protect you from the heat and shirts to protect you from each other’s violence. In that way He perfects His blessing on you so that hopefully you will become Muslims.” (Surat an-Nahl, 81)
Mountain slopes facing the sea receive more rain than those facing interior regions. That is because moist masses of air from the sea cool down as they rise along the slopes, and as they cool down the water vapour they contain condenses and falls to earth in the form of rain. That is why mountainsides facing the sea have moderate, wet climates, while those facing land masses have dry climates as they are unable to benefit from this moisture.
Climates Are Manifestations of Allah’s Titles of the Compassionate and Merciful
Solar energy and geographic factors are essential in the emergence of climates on Earth. Solar energy controls the winds, temperature, rainfall and the movement of air masses, while geographic factors impact on climate by way of the surface forms of the seas and land. All these factors operate on the climate in a most complex manner. But this complex work never results in chaos. On the contrary, as a result of a chain of interconnected phenomena there is an order operating according to specific laws in all regions and even districts. That is because Allah, the Compassionate and Merciful (Whose goodness, mercy and will act on all of creation, Who imparts countless blessings without distinguishing between those whom He loves and those whom He does not), manifests His compassion and blessings in all things, visible or invisible. Human beings are able to live together with these visible and invisible blessings that have submitted to Allah. There is no doubt that the diversity stemming from the climate functioning within a specific order is the result of Allah maintaining all living things and all phenomena under His supervision. Our Lord’s absolute dominion over the universe is revealed as follows in a verse from the Qur’an: “He directs the whole affair from heaven to earth. Then it will again ascend to Him on a Day whose length is a thousand years by the way you measure.”
(Surat as-Sajda, 5)
Geographic Factors Created for the Determination of Climate
How Does the Shape of the Earth Affect Climate?
Because the Earth is spherical in shape, the areas between the Poles and the Equator benefit from solar energy to different extents over the year. Those areas on the Equator receive the highest levels of solar energy, and that energy declines towards the Poles. The temperatures of atmospheric masses thus differ as one moves from the Equator to the Poles.
Those regions between the Equator and the Tropics receive more solar energy over the course of the year, and are therefore hotter, thus giving rise to the “Warm Tropical Belt”. Those areas between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn and the Poles are cooler because they receive less solar energy, and these are known as the “Moderate Belt”. Those areas around the Poles have a larger surface area to warm because they lie at a sharper angle than other zones, and this gives rise to polar climatic conditions.
If the Earth did not have such a shape, there would not be so many different climatic regions, and each would not have its own life forms and human beings with unique life styles. Indeed, one can see how climate affects human beings in everything, from the food they eat to the shelters they erect. In the Poles, where Eskimos live, people live in homes called igloos and wear clothes made from thick fur. In the continent of Africa these are replaced by dwellings made from tree branches and leaves and very thin clothing.
Why Is the Earth’s Orbit around the Sun and Its Angle So Important?
The Earth’s orbit around the Sun and its angle of inclination to it of 23.5 degrees have a major impact on climate.
- Were it not for the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, there would be no seasons. One side of the world would live in permanent summer, and the other in endless winter.
- Were it not for this angle of 23.5 degrees, the Equator would heat up excessively because the Sun’s rays would always arrive at the same angle, and the Polar Regions would be in constant darkness. That means the Equator would be very hot and bright, and the Poles very dark and cold. There could be no diversity of life under either condition, and those animals and plants living at the Poles could never increase due to the cold since no animal offspring could ever withstand the harsh conditions and constant winter darkness and cold. In short, the world would look very different, and might even not be able to sustain any life at all.
A number of automatic systems regulate the temperature in the Earth’s atmosphere. For example, when a region heats up, water vapour levels rise and clouds form. These clouds reflect some of the rays from the Sun and thus prevent further heating of the ground and air beneath them.
The rich climatic features on Earth, the ice-covered continent of Antarctica is home to living beings such as polar bears and penguins, the continent of Africa is home to lions and huge elephants, Australia is inhabited by kangaroos and koala bears, while creatures such as lamas and jaguars live in South America. The same variety of life also applies to plants. Polar Regions have the tundra, home to seaweeds and lichens, while the equatorial belt is full of rain forests that are home to thousands upon thousands of different species.
Different Pressure Belts Enrich Climate Types
There are two low and two high pressure centres in the northern and summer hemispheres. These pressure belts have a significant effect on the local climate. The most important effect of pressure is the winds. The moist air masses forming over the seas produce plentiful rainfall as they move with ease to low pressure areas. In contrast, since there are no air currents operating from the seas (low pressure centres) to high pressure areas in interior regions, these regions receive little rainfall. This characteristic regulates regions’ rainfall and relative humidity factors.
If the pressure systems were not different to one another, winds would not form and it would be impossible for wet and dry air masses to move. In the lack of even the slightest air movement, regions would either be very dry or else receive huge amounts of rain.
If the pressure centre in the land and sea were always low, then moisture laden air masses would always move inland and constant rainfall, floods and landslides would be inevitable.
If the pressure over the land were always high, then land masses would receive no rain at all, and the land would become covered in desert. By the will of Almighty Allah, however, the wind, rain and the pressure centres over the land and sea are so balanced as to benefit all living things.