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spockvr6

Definition of "tropical"?

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spockvr6

Regarding different geographic locales around the globe, one is often left to wonder "is that place "tropical" or not"?

Is it purely by latitude (i.e. if one is between the Tropic of Cancer and Capricorn then the location is by default, regardless of climate, considered in the "tropics")?  Or, does one take a less strict approach and look at climate data and use certain rules of thumb (such as if the difference between daily highs and lows is more than the difference between highs in summer and winter, then the location is "tropical")?

How do you define tropical?

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SubTropicRay

Yikes Larry.  This topic always gets controversial.  I remember when Dave and Geri Prall tried to convince me that a Coconut was a true sign of the subtropics!!  Why would a tropical plant be used to gauge whether or not an area is SUBtropical?!.  In my opinion, tropical zones (in terms of what can be grown) cannot be limited by such a regimented demarcation as the Tropic of Cancer and Capricorn.  

Ray

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BobbyinNY

If I don't have to ever wear a jacket and can be outside comfortably in shorts and a tanktop from January thru december, day or night - to me it's tropical.

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bgl

Bobby,

You just described life in Hawaii! And as far as I know, the definition of the "tropics" is indeed everything between the Tropic of Cancer and Capricorn. That doesn't mean that everything in between has a tropical climate. If you were to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro for instance, you'd experience an environment that's definitely not tropical but the mountain itself is still very much located in the tropics.

Bo

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BobbyinNY
Bobby,

You just described life in Hawaii! And as far as I know, the definition of the "tropics" is indeed everything between the Tropic of Cancer and Capricorn. That doesn't mean that everything in between has a tropical climate. If you were to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro for instance, you'd experience an environment that's definitely not tropical but the mountain itself is still very much located in the tropics.

Bo

Bo, I know if I ever visit Hawaii, I'll never want to live anywhere else...

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NBTX11

(bgl @ Jul. 10 2006,14:22)

QUOTE
Bobby,

You just described life in Hawaii! And as far as I know, the definition of the "tropics" is indeed everything between the Tropic of Cancer and Capricorn. That doesn't mean that everything in between has a tropical climate. If you were to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro for instance, you'd experience an environment that's definitely not tropical but the mountain itself is still very much located in the tropics.

Bo

There are many areas within the tropic or cancer and capricorn that anything but tropical.  Think not only of Kilimanjaro, but also the mountain ranges of South America, and Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii for example.  Conversely, I am sure there are areas outside of the Tropics that are "tropical".  The FL keys come to mind, and I am sure there are others.  If someone were to include Cuba, Puerto Rico, etc, in the Tropics, then I would contend, by climate at least that Key West would be included, even though it is very slightly north of the tropic line, instead of very slightly below it like these other locations.  In other words you don't suddenly go from subtropical to tropical just by crossing a line, it's a gradual thing.

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SubTropicRay

I believe there are coconuts on Bermuda.  Carlo Morici would have a valid argument in stating that the Tenerife Palmetum is in a tropical climate. That despite the Canary Islands being north of the Tropic of Cancer.  My father said he owned a sweater while growing up in Havana.  After looking at weather records some years ago, Havana gets into the 40'sF albeit infrequently.  So Bobby, you need sweaters in the tropics too sometimes.

Ray

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Alan_Tampa

Coconuts on bermuda - yes.  

Alan

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Trópico

Three factors influence whether a place is tropical:

How north/south of the equator

How high above sea level

How close to a dominant landmass

According to the Köppen climate classification, any place whose monthly mean temperature is above 18ºC is considered to be Tropical.

Subtropical climate is any near tropical climate where air temperature usually does not go below freezing.

My definition is: everywhere I can grow Cyrtostachys renda outdoors or hang a hammock between two coconut trunks and forget the rest!

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Palmy

To me? Anywhere where there is humidity all year round, or some, and above 60 is truley tropical for me.

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BobbyinNY
So Bobby, you need sweaters in the tropics too sometimes

So is the next meeting in Havana :) ....   I'm all excited just thinking about cruising the Malecon....

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spockvr6

(Trópico @ Jul. 10 2006,18:40)

QUOTE
According to the Köppen climate classification, any place whose monthly mean temperature is above 18ºC is considered to be Tropical.

Good Lawd thats lenient!

The monthly mean temp in little old Tarpon Springs (and much of central FL) is about 16-17C in the coldest month.  According to this classification, south FL would then be tropical.

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SubTropicRay

Like I wrote above, this topic can and will go on forever with no resolution.  If anything Larry, I have to convince myself we're not warm temperate in the month of January.

Ray

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spockvr6

(Ray, Tampa @ Jul. 11 2006,08:24)

QUOTE
Like I wrote above, this topic can and will go on forever with no resolution.  

But it is interesting to see what people's thoughts are even though it will be a perpetual conversation.

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spockvr6

(Ray, Tampa @ Jul. 11 2006,08:24)

QUOTE
 If anything Larry, I have to convince myself we're not warm temperate in the month of January.

Ray

Ray-

I am from Maine originally (but have been in FL since '95).  So, I have a different perspective!  Try going up there in January and then come back here and see how you feel!

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SubTropicRay

Larry,

My usual response to that (for my Michigander fiancee) is try going to Costa Rica in January and then fly back here...right after cold front passage. It has similar effects.

Ray

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spockvr6

(Ray, Tampa @ Jul. 11 2006,09:28)

QUOTE
Larry,

My usual response to that (for my Michigander fiancee) is try going to Costa Rica in January and then fly back here...right after cold front passage. It has similar effects.

Ray

I see your point!

The coldest I have felt is a -30F air temp along with winds taking the wind chill factor to -70F and it was God awful.  So, although I have become acclimated to warmer weather (and feel alot colder at a given temp than I would have 15 years ago), I still recall how badly those temperatures physically hurt!  So...I am more lenient in what I find acceptable here :D

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BobbyinNY
The coldest I have felt is a -30F air temp along with winds taking the wind chill factor to -70F and it was God awful.  So, although I have become acclimated to warmer weather (and feel alot colder at a given temp than I would have 15 years ago), I still recall how badly those temperatures physically hurt!  So...I am more lenient in what I find acceptable here  

If I went up to Maine in the middle of January and came back to LI I would feel like I'm in the tropics... That's colder than a Witches @#$ up there.... I was in Montreal one December for a day and I couldn't believe how cold it was - I'd never felt anything like that in my life - Just walking a few feet to the car was unbearable.

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NBTX11

Anyone who thinks central FL is cold in Jan needs to go anywhere, ANYWHERE else in the US to realize just how warm and mild it is in the winter there.  I have lived all over the US, including Michigan, Montana, and Wisconsin (Yes I have felt -70 wind chills too), and FL has THE most comfortably mild winter weather around (in the cont. US) bar none, with the slight exception of the few brief cold fronts that pass through in the winter.  Oh sure, you have to wear a sweater or windbreaker and socks for 1-2 days, but before you know it it's back to 75 and sunny.

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BobbyinNY

Jim,

the only exception I can see is someone who was born and raised in the Keys.... they would think Central FL is definitely cold in Jan/Feb.

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spockvr6

(BobbyinNY @ Jul. 11 2006,15:07)

QUOTE
Jim,

the only exception I can see is someone who was born and raised in the Keys.... they would think Central FL is definitely cold in Jan/Feb.

Its amazing what a 5F difference can feel like.....

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NBTX11

(BobbyinNY @ Jul. 11 2006,15:07)

QUOTE
Jim,

the only exception I can see is someone who was born and raised in the Keys.... they would think Central FL is definitely cold in Jan/Feb.

yeah, I meant with the exception of the keys and South Florida, maybe even areas of So Cal, and the RGV area of TX, although I think Central FL is as warm as those areas on average.

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bubba

As indicated, the Koppen classification suggests that any location with an average tempture in the location's coolest month that exceeds 64 degrees fahrenheit is tropical. How many locations in the US meet this criteria and where are they located?

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NBTX11

(bubba @ Jul. 13 2006,14:51)

QUOTE
As indicated, the Koppen classification suggests that any location with an average tempture in the location's coolest month that exceeds 64 degrees fahrenheit is tropical. How many locations in the US meet this criteria and where are they located?

All of south Florida meets this requirement.  Miami Averages about 76-77 for a high and about 60 for a low in Jan, so that averages to about 68-69F.  At least the southern 3rd of  the FL peninsula meets that requirment and some coastal areas in central florida are just about there or pretty close.  Also, the "Valley" area of Texas isn't quite there, but close.  Jan averages about 70/50 for an average of about 60 in the coldest month, 4 degrees below this.

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bubba

Any California or Arizona locations meet this criteria?

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chris78

Bubba I don't know any place in Arizona or California thats meet that criteria.

For me tropical climates are frost and freeze free as well as warm year round. When I studied climates tropical climate needed to be warmer than 64F ave during all months and a total lack of frost. The only place in the USA that would fall into this criteria would be Hawaii and the Florida Keys.

In short tropical climate are where you can grow ultra-tropical plants without much problems...examples breadfruit, rumbutan, durian....etc are true tropical climates...........even the most hardy of ultra tropicals like mangosteen can't be grown with much sucess in south Florida, even though I know one tree in a very warm protected spot near Biscayne Bay.....

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NBTX11

(chris78 @ Jul. 13 2006,19:50)

QUOTE
Bubba I don't know any place in Arizona or California thats meet that criteria.

For me tropical climates are frost and freeze free as well as warm year round. When I studied climates tropical climate needed to be warmer than 64F ave during all months and a total lack of frost. The only place in the USA that would fall into this criteria would be Hawaii and the Florida Keys.

In short tropical climate are where you can grow ultra-tropical plants without much problems...examples breadfruit, rumbutan, durian....etc are true tropical climates...........even the most hardy of ultra tropicals like mangosteen can't be grown with much sucess in south Florida, even though I know one tree in a very warm protected spot near Biscayne Bay.....

No place in Cal or Ari meet this requirement.   Also, I would say that Miami Beach area meets the "frost free" requirement.  Can anyone ever remember Miami/South Beach EVER getting a frost.  It would be a once in a 50-100 year occurence if they did.  Technically, they may be considered a northern extension of the keys, though.

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cfkingfish

Miami Beach recorded 32F on Christmas, 1989. I think that tropical should be described as a climate where deviations in weather such as rainfall and wind are more prominent than deviations in temperature. The Sahara desert near the equator is tropical desert, yet you can move a few hundred miles into Zaire and it is tropical rainforest. Both are tropical, but climates differ greatly. Latitude is a huge factor, but is not the end all of determination of the tropics. It has frozen in Tampico, Mexico, whereas Key West which is north has only seen 41F.

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chris78

Jim, I think Miami Beach being frost free has more to do with its urban heat island effect than it has to do with its natural climate....its a cemet jungle that hold alot of heat....

Downtown Phoenix is that way now.....it can go 5 to 8 or more years without a freeze....but this is because of urbanization. In years past it would freeze ever year....and where I lived a few miles away it still freezes ever year.

cfkingfish yes tropical climates vary greatly as do temerate ones.......while we lay people think of tropical, our minds bring up images of wet tropical climates with its lush growth. In reality tropical or temperate basiclly deal with the temperature and the distribution of the temperature during the year..

It really does not look at rainfall or humidity of an area....so yes there are tropical desert, deciduous tropical forest, tropical grasslands called savannas, tropical rainforest.. as well as temperate forest, grasslands and deserts. Desert, forest, grassland give insite into the rainfall and rainfall patterns.

The Arizona Sonoran desert is a subtropical desert..the Great Basin desert is a temperate desert.....the saguaro cactus and palo verde trees that are so common in Phoenix and Tucson are not found in Salt Lake City, because these plants are subtropical and SLC is temperate. Even though both Phoenix and SLC are desert cities...

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Neofolis

When I think of tropical, I think of somehwere that doesn't see any yearly average temperatures outside the range of 16-35°C (61-95°F), has high year round humidity and annual rainfall above 1500mm.

I realise I have just excluded much of Hawaii with my criteria, but Singapore makes it quite comfortably.  My definition would definitely require a fairly equatorial location with a maritime climate being beneficial, although many areas of Brazil would easily meet the requirements.

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Alan_Tampa

Chris78, Would that be Bill Whitman's mangosteen?  Also, pretty sure more than one growing there, also more than one tree has fruited, if memory serves.  Get the book, Five Decades with Tropical Fruit, and get info first hand from Sir Bill's own writings, some current facts are craps.  1976 was the first mainland fruiting of the mangosteen.  Also, Adolf Grimal on Big Pine? had Rambutan fruit there, also around the keys there are a good handful of breadfruit trees, must make fact finding mission and document what is a growing down there.  Also, 41F may be the official low temp, but it is from one station and in no way says it all.  Key West is still close enough for me though, as is most of Americas's wang from the glans down.

Alan

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spockvr6

(Alan_Tampa @ Jul. 14 2006,17:24)

QUOTE
close enough for me though, as is most of Americas's wang from the glans down.

BWAHAHAHAHAA!

And...if you look closely at Pinellas and the south Tampa peninsula there might also be a like resemblance......

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alex_7b

Tropical locals don't see below 10ºC. Probably not below 15ºC.

Between those values and 0º, would be classified subtropical.

From 0º or 5º to about -5ºC, you're in warm-temperate. These all depend on warm, humid weather as opposed to deserts, mediterranean, west-coast.

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BobbyinNY
Los Niños y Los Borrachos siempre dicen la verdad

Alex,

tienes Razon!!!... Y yo estoy borracho ahora.... lol

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NBTX11

(alex_7b @ Jul. 20 2006,13:24)

QUOTE
Tropical locals don't see below 10ºC. Probably not below 15ºC.

Between those values and 0º, would be classified subtropical.

From 0º or 5º to about -5ºC, you're in warm-temperate. These all depend on warm, humid weather as opposed to deserts, mediterranean, west-coast.

According to your defenition, Parts of Central FL are not subtropical because they occasionally (rarely) see lows in winter below 5C.  I know FL is at the very least subtropical - it's hot and humid 9 months out of the year, and the other 3 months are mild to warm, other than the very brief cold fronts.  I think you can have an occasional frost/freeze and still be considered subtropical...Just my opinion.

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alex_7b

I think once you drop below freezing, you're no longer subtropical.

25ºF in humid, central FL feels pretty damn cold. Think of how many things will suffer. Even Cocos, Roystonea and Ravenea will take a quick dip below 32º, but can't handle a normal Orlando winter.

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Alan_Tampa

Occasional frost does not preclude a reqion from being sub-tropical, also average lows and the lowest average minumum are two different things.  Florida and most of the Gulf Coast (probably all of it) are sub-tropical.

Alan

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NBTX11

From everything I have read, all or the states that border the gulf coast are considered "subtropical".  At the very least the areas of these states that are near the gulf..

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JEFF IN MODESTO
As indicated, the Koppen classification suggests that any location with an average temperature in the location's coolest month that exceeds 64 degrees Fahrenheit is tropical.

Interesting subject!

According to my college meteorology instructor, the above statement is partially true.

A true Tropical climate has rainfall equally distributed the year round and its coolest month's mean temp exceeds 64f Fahrenheit.

Now, my college Geography instructor taught me the tropics are between Tropic of Cancer and Capricorn.

My college Botany instructor taught me that a Tropical plant or tree.... Is a plant or tree that originates in the tropics...ie...between the Tropic of Cancer and Capricorn.

My question... If it can be said that California has a Mediterranean type climate, can it also be said that southern Italy has a California type climate?

:)

Jeff

4class-A.GIF

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