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I am making a game. Can a planet possibly exist where, the poles are cool enough to sustain life but the further towards the equator you go, the drier and more uninhabitable the area becomes? Can ice form very close to the pole with such a mostly uninhabitable planet?

Despite the answer I will still probably create a game with this setting. However I am curious now. I also believe any answer might steer me towards a more believable sci-fi setting.

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  • $\begingroup$ So in short, you want an habitable planet where life stands mostly in the equators, and the poles are very dry and cold? When you tell it's dry, it's like there's little to no body of water at all? Or something less extreme? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 17, 2023 at 0:39
  • $\begingroup$ This point aside, let's move away that (obviously) you can have unhospitable cold lands at the poles, knowing Earth's Arctic and Antarctica. What's probably less known is that there isn't necessarily (and funnily) a lot of rain in Antarctica for instance. Could be the starting point of a more detailled answer, depending on how dry you want it ^^. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 17, 2023 at 0:46
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    $\begingroup$ Wouldn't this just be a planet roughly like ours, but a bit warmer, and then topography that favors water nearer the Poles rather than equator? Or some sort of altered planetary circulation so that it's not rising at the Equator and sinking at the Poles? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 17, 2023 at 1:19

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Certainly. Just start with Earth, and raise the average temperature about ten degrees uniformly. You can also rearrange oceans to reduce the amount of moisture available at the equator.

That's not quite as simple as just increasing sunlight or greenhouse gasses, because just heating the Earth as it is does not result in a uniform rise--the poles get hotter faster than the equator, and weather generally gets more violent to move the extra energy around. But, there are several things you can do to help maintain the pole-to-equator temperature difference at a higher average level:

  1. Rearrange the oceans so there's less equatorial water and less efficient surface currents transporting heat.
  2. Reduce the density of the atmosphere, so it's less efficient at transporting heat. You could cut air pressure in half, or more, just by removing nitrogen, without affecting human habitability.
  3. Make the planet spin faster, so that the boundaries between latitudinal circulation zones become stronger, making it harder to move heat north and south.
  4. Make the planet bigger, so it just takes longer to move heat around due to the larger distance that needs to be covered.
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