In geography, the temperate climates (sometimes tepid climates) of Earth occur in the middle latitudes (40° to 60° N/S of Equator), which span between the tropics and the polar regions of Earth.
These zones generally have wider temperature ranges throughout the year and more distinct changes compared to , where such variations are often small and usually only have precipitation changes.
In temperate climates, not only do latitudinal positions influence temperature changes, but sea currents, prevailing wind direction, continentality (how large a landmass is), and altitude also shape temperate climates.
The Köppen climate classification defines a climate as "temperate" when the mean temperature is above but below in the coldest month to account for the persistency of frost. However, other climate classifications set the minimum at .
Zones and climates
The north temperate zone
extends from the Tropic of Cancer (approximately 23.5° north latitude) to the Arctic Circle
(approximately 66.5° north latitude). The south temperate zone
extends from the Tropic of Capricorn (approximately 23.5° south latitude) to the Antarctic Circle
(at approximately 66.5° south latitude).
In some climate classifications, the temperate zone may be divided into several smaller climate zones, based on monthly temperatures, the coldest month, and rainfall. These include humid subtropical climate, Mediterranean climate, oceanic climate, and continental climate.
These are the climates that are typically found toward the more equatorial portion of the temperate zone between 23.5° and 35° north or south, and thus are far more influenced by the tropics than any other temperate climate type, usually having warmer temperatures over the year, longer and hot summers and mild, short winters. Freezing precipitation is uncommon in this portion of the temperate zone.
On the winter solstice within this range of latitude, the sun still rises to an altitude of between 31.5 and 43 degrees above the horizon respectively thus contributing to the warmer winters however it does not quite reach the zenith (directly overhead at 90 degrees) on the summer solstice hence the definition of being within the temperate zone.
Humid subtropical (Cfa) and monsoon subtropical (Cwa)
Humid subtropical climates generally have long, hot and humid summers with convective showers in summer and a peak seasonal rainfall in the hottest months. Winters are normally mild and not freezing in the humid subtropics, and warm ocean currents normally are found in coastal areas with humid subtropical climates.
This type of climate is normally located along leeward lower east coasts of continents such as in southeast and central Argentina
and south of Brazil
, the southeast portions of East Asia
, the southern United States, South Africa
, and eastern Australia
. In some areas with a humid subtropical climate (most notably southeast China
and North India
), there is an even sharper wet-dry season, called subtropical monsoon or Cwa. In these regions, winters are quite dry and summers have very heavy rainfall. Some Cwa areas in southern China reported more than 80% of annual precipitation in the 5 warmest months (southwest monsoon).
Mediterranean (Csa, Csb)
Mediterranean climates, opposite to the humid subtropical and monsoonal climates, have a dry summer, with rainfall in the winter and cooler months instead. They occur mostly at the western edges and coasts of the continents and are bounded by arid deserts on their equatorward sides that brings dry winds causing the dry season of summer, and oceanic climates to the poleward sides that are influenced by cool ocean currents and air masses that bring the rainfall of winter. The five main Mediterranean regions of the world are the Mediterranean Basin in northwestern Afro-Eurasia
, coastal California
in the United States
, the southwest of Australia
, the Western Cape
of South Africa
and the south and southwestern coast of Chile.
Subtropical highland (Cfb, Cwb)
These are variants of the subtropical climates found in high altitude plateaus or montane systems either in the tropics or subtropics, they have characteristically mild temperatures year-round, featuring the four seasons in the subtropics and no marked seasons in the tropics, the latter usually remaining mild to cool through most of the year.
These climates occur in the middle latitudes, between approximately 23.5° and 66.5° north, and 23° and 66.5° south, and are the ones with the most equal influence from the equator and the poles, and the most prototypical temperate climates with the typical distinct four-season pattern. In these the temperatures remain relatively cool through most of the year, as opposed to warm in the subtropics and cold in the subpolar zone.
are created by the onshore flow from the cool high latitude oceans to their west. This causes the climate to have mild summers and cool (but not cold) winters, and relative humidity and precipitation evenly distributed along the year. These climates are frequently cloudy, and are fairly milder both in winter and summer in comparison to other temperate climates. Annual rainfall is spread throughout the entire year. Regions with this climate include Northwestern Europe, Northwestern North America, southeastern and southwestern South America
, southeastern Australia
and most of New Zealand
These are temperate climates that compared to the subtropics are on the poleward edge of the temperate zone. Therefore, they still have four marked seasons including a warmer one, but are far more influenced by the polar zones than any other but the very polar climates (tundra
and ice cap climate).
Subpolar oceanic (Cfc, Cwc, Csc)
Areas with subpolar oceanic climates feature an oceanic climate but are usually located closer to polar regions. As a result of their location, these regions tend to be on the cool end of oceanic climates. Snowfall tends to be more common here than in other oceanic climates. Subpolar oceanic climates are less prone to temperature extremes than subarctic climates or continental climates, featuring milder winters than these climates but still with similar summers. This variant of an oceanic climate is found in parts of coastal Iceland
, the Faroe Islands
, parts of Scotland
, northwestern coastal areas of Norway
such as Lofoten
and reaching to 70° north on some islands, uplands near the coast of southwestern Norway, the Aleutian Islands
and northern parts of the Alaskan Panhandle, some parts of Southern Argentina
and Chile (though most regions are still classified as continental subantarctic), and a few highland areas of Tasmania
, and the Australian Alps
and Southern Alps / Kā Tiritiri o te Moana. This type of climate is even found in tropical areas such as the Papuan Highlands in Indonesia. Cfc is the categorization for this regime. Even in the middle of summer, temperatures exceeding 20 °C (68 °F) are exceptional weather events in the most maritime of those locations impacted by this regime. In some parts of this climate, temperatures as high as 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) have been recorded on rare occasions, while temperatures as low as 20 degrees Celsius (4 degrees Fahrenheit) have still been recorded on rare occasions.
Demography, fauna and flora
The vast majority of the world's human population resides in temperate zones, especially in the northern hemisphere, due to its greater mass of land and lack of extreme temperatures.
The biggest described number of taxa in a temperate region is found in southern Africa
, where some 24,000 taxa (species and infraspecific taxa) have been described, but the native fauna and flora of this region does not have much cultural importance for the majority of the human population of the world that lives in the Temperate Zones of the Northern Hemisphere, only environmental importance.
Farming is a large-scale practice in the temperate regions (except for boreal/subarctic regions) due to the plentiful rainfall and warm summers, because most agricultural activity occurs in the spring and summer, cold winters have a small effect on agricultural production. Extreme winters or summers have a huge impact on the productivity of agriculture which is less common.
William James Burroughs (1999
, Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521770811
Temperate regions have the majority of the world's population, which leads to large cities. There are a couple of factors why the climate of large city landscapes differs from the climate of rural areas. One factor is the strength of the absorption rate of buildings and asphalt, which is higher than natural land. The other large factor is the burning of fossil fuels from buildings and vehicles. These factors have led to the average climate of cities to be warmer than surrounding areas.
"Temperate Climate" refers to climates between Polar and Tropical. However, there is a gradual change from polar to tropical climates across the middle latitude temperate zones. Normally, in the northern hemisphere, the northern portions of the temperate zone feature Boreal climate
, Continental, and
, while the southern portions of the temperate zone are often Mediterranean and humid subtropical climates. These different climates all fall within the temperate zone which has a basic definition as being any climate with a mean temperature above but below in the coldest month. Obviously winter temperatures will be more mild in southerly portions and colder in the more northerly portions of the northern temperate zone and vice versa in the southern temperate zone.
From a floristic standpoint, each of these climate zones have generally temperate vegetation. There is however, an obvious change in flora from the far northern portions of the temperate zone (Boreal) to the far southern portion (humid subtropical). Pines and conifers are endemic and more abundant in the northern portion of the temperate, while palms may be endemic to far southern portions of the temperate zone. Along with this, the humid subtropical climate may be wrongly separated from the Temperate group of climates, and further associated with the Tropical climates, much because of its name, temperatures and the vegetation found in Subtropical zones which can be somewhat similar to that of Tropical regions (For instance the Atlantic Forest of Brazil is spread across both Temperate and Tropical zones of the country). Additionally, both temperate and tropical species can be found side by side in the far southern portions of the temperate zone (for example in central Florida), while subarctic species might be found growing in northern portions of the continental zone (for example in Northwest Europe).