What is a tropical climate?

What is the definition of tropical climate?
by Brahmanand Mohanty    

This is the type of climate present between the tropics (Cancer and Capricorn), ranging up to 14 degrees north and south latitude, and where the average monthly temperature does not fall below 18°C throughout the year. By definition, the tropical climate is still characterized by its humidity, which reinforces the feeling of warmth. This is why an air conditioning system is needed in most tropical countries. Precipitation is variable, moving from a dry season to a wet season.


Thus, it is essentially rainfall that defines the seasons of the tropical climate. During the dry season, rainfall can be almost zero and temperatures are lowest (around December in the northern hemisphere, June in the southern hemisphere). While during the wet season – or rainy season – rainfall can be very heavy and temperatures are high (around June in the northern hemisphere, December in the southern hemisphere). But there are also tropical climates for which the situation is reversed. On the Canary Islands or Hawaii, for example, rainfall is concentrated in winter while temperatures are cool for the region.


Other characteristics of the tropical climate include near-permanent winds (called trade winds), especially on the coasts, or vegetation made up of medium-dense forests, grasslands and savannahs.


The approach to building design is more complicated compared to desert countries, mainly because of the high humidity.


A challenge for climate


Currently, 40% of the world’s population lives in tropical areas. By 2060, this figure will reach 60%. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in tropical areas are expected to quadruple by 2030 at least compared to the early 2000s.

Today, in tropical countries, most new buildings (both residential and tertiary) are built without particular consideration of the local climate context: this leads to excessive energy consumption to compensate for the discomfort caused by heat and humidity. In addition, regulations on the energy performance of residential buildings and energy efficiency and comfort measures during the design phase are relatively underdeveloped in most of these countries.


The tropical zone is also facing unprecedented urbanization. The cities concerned have become denser, resulting in an increase in the area built, a lack of green spaces and air circulation and a significant reduction in soil permeability. Urban heat islands increase temperatures by at least 6 degrees in the city, which obviously encourages the use of air conditioning (an expensive solution that warms the outdoor environment) and reduces the possibility of using natural ventilation.


Bioclimatic strategies


Bioclimatic design is defined when the architecture of the project is adapted to the characteristics and particularities of the location, in order to take the most out of its advantages and to protect against disadvantages and constraints. The main objective is to obtain the desired ambient comfort in the most natural way possible by using architectural means, available renewable energies and by using as little as possible mechanized technical means and energies outside the site.

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All you need to living light in the tropics… healthy for your family and the planet.