Continental climate

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A continental climate is the climate typical of the middle-latitude interiors of the large continents of the [Northern Hemisphere] in the zone of westerly winds; similar climates exist along the east coasts and southwest coasts of the same continents, and also at higher elevations in certain other parts of the world. This climate is characterized by winter temperatures cold enough to support a fixed period of stable snow cover each year, and relatively low precipitation occurring mostly in summer, although east coast areas (chiefly in North America) may show an even distribution of precipitation. Only a few areas in Iran, adjacent Turkey and Central Asia show a winter maximum in precipitation, which typically melts in early spring to give short-lived floods.

These regions generally have either forest or tall-grass prairie as natural ground cover and include some of the most productive farmlands in the world. All such climates have at least three months of temperatures in excess of 10°C (50°F) and winters with at least one month below 0°C (32°F) (although some classifications have a lower threshold for winter based on snow cover, in the Köppen climate classification -3°C (27.4°F) is used).

Most such areas fit Köppen classifications of Dfa, Dwa (cold winters, long hot summers; "w" indicating very dry winters characteristic especially of China) or Dfb or Dwb (cold winters and long, mild summers, same distinction for winter dryness).

Continental climates exist where cold air masses infiltrate during the winter and warm air masses form in summer under conditions of high sun and long days. Places with continental climates are as a rule either far from any moderating effects of oceans (example: Omaha, Nebraska, USA) or are so situated (example: Boston, Massachusetts, USA) that prevailing winds tend to head offshore. Such regions get quite warm in the summer, achieving temperatures characteristic of tropical climates but are much colder than any other climates of similar latitude in the winter.

These climates grade off toward subtropical climates equator-ward where winters are less severe and semiarid climates where precipitation becomes inadequate for tall-grass prairies. In Europe these climates may grade off into oceanic climates in which the influence of moderating air masses is more marked toward the west. The subpolar climate (Köppen: Dfc), with very cold, long and dry winters, but with at least one month above 10°C, might be considered a sub-type of the continental climate.

The Midwestern United States, southern Canada, parts of China, and most of Russia are examples of areas of the world with continental climates, which do not exist at all in the Southern Hemisphere due to the lack of broad land masses at middle latitudes, the southernmost parts of Africa and Australia being under marine influences and southern South America being too narrow in breadth to allow air masses as cold as those in corresponding latitudes in North America and Asia to form in the winter. Antarctica, of course, lies completely outside the middle latitudes.

[edit] See also

da:Fastlandsklima de:Kontinentalklima es:Clima continental eo:Kontinenta klimato fr:Climat continental gl:Clima continental it:Clima continentale nl:Landklimaat pt:Clima continental fi:Mannerilmasto sv:Inlandsklimat

Continental climate

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