The tropics are the region of the Earth surrounding the Equator. They are delimited in latitude by the Tropic of Cancer in the Northern Hemisphere at 23°26′12.2″ (or 23.43673°) N and the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere at 23°26′12.2″ (or 23.43673°) S; these latitudes correspond to the axial tilt of the Earth. The tropics are also referred to as the tropical zone and the torrid zone (see geographical zone). The tropics include all the areas on the Earth where the Sun contacts a point directly overhead at least once during the solar year (which is a subsolar point) - thus the latitude of the tropics is roughly equal to the angle of the Earth's axial tilt.
The tropics comprise 40% of the Earth's surface area and contain 36% of the Earth's landmass. As of 2014, the region is home to 40% of the world's population, and this figure is projected to reach 50% by the late 2030s.
Seasons and climate
"Tropical" is sometimes used in a general sense for a tropical climate to mean warm to hot and moist year-round, often with the sense of lush vegetation.
Many tropical areas have a dry and wet season.
When the wet season occurs during the warm season, or summer, precipitation falls mainly during the late afternoon and early evening hours. The wet season is a time when air quality improves, freshwater quality improves and vegetation grows significantly, leading to crop yields late in the season. Floods cause rivers to overflow their banks, and some animals to retreat to higher ground. Soil nutrients diminish and erosion increases. The incidence of malaria increases in areas where the rainy season coincides with high temperatures. Animals have adaptation and survival strategies for the wetter regime. The previous dry season leads to food shortages into the wet season, as the crops have yet to mature.
However, regions within the tropics may well not have a tropical climate.
Tropical plants and animals are those species native to the tropics. Tropical ecosystems may consist of tropical rainforests, seasonal tropical forests, dry (often deciduous) forests, spiny forests, desert and other habitat types. There are often significant areas of biodiversity, and species endemism present, particularly in rainforests and seasonal forests. Some examples of important biodiversity and high endemism ecosystems are El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico, Costa Rican and Nicaraguan rainforests, Amazon Rainforest territories of several South American countries, Madagascar dry deciduous forests, the Waterberg Biosphere of South Africa, and eastern Madagascar rainforests. Often the soils of tropical forests are low in nutrient content, making them quite vulnerable to slash-and-burn deforestation techniques, which are sometimes an element of shifting cultivation agricultural systems.
In biogeography, the tropics are divided into Paleotropics (Africa, Asia and Australia) and Neotropics (Caribbean, Central America, and South America). Together, they are sometimes referred to as the Pantropic. The Neotropical region should not be confused with the ecozone of the same name; in the Old World, there is no such ambiguity, as the Paleotropics correspond to the Afrotropical, Indomalayan, and partly the Australasian and Oceanic ecozones.
"Tropicality" refers to the geographic imagery that many people outside the tropics have of that region.
Tropicality encompasses at least two contradictory imageries.
Western scholars also theorized about the reasons that tropical areas were deemed "inferior" to regions in the Northern Hemisphere.