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Where Are the Tropics? Why Do they Matter?

What exactly are the tropical zones?

When most of us dream of the tropics, the fantasy usually begins with beautiful sandy beaches, warm sun, and a relaxed, carefree environment.  Perhaps even a luscious beverage in hand.  While the fantasy of tropical beaches is accurate, it only represents a thin slice of the extraordinary countries that straddle the equator between the Tropic of Cancer, latitude 23-1/2 degrees North, and the Tropic of Capricorn, latitude 23-1/2 degrees South.

Known as the tropical or torrid zone, every point within the tropics receives the perpendicular rays of the sun at noon on at least one day of the year.  In our annual journey around the sun, it will be furthest north and directly overhead at the Tropic of Cancer on June 21 or 22, the summer solstice, and directly overhead at the Tropic of Capricorn on December 21 or 22, the winter solstice.  During the spring and summer equinoxes, the sun will be directly overhead at the equator.

Patricia Rain
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