Join me for a trip around the world! Explore the different climate zones, discover the subtle differences between them, and learn the scientific classifications of each.
Climates Around the World
Let’s get started on our trip around the globe! Be sure to pack a large variety of clothing, since the temperature will change drastically as we move from the equator to the poles. To begin with, take a look at this map so you can have a good understanding of where we will be going.
We are going to start in that dark red area right along the equator. This is the area of the planet that receives the most direct sunlight, so it is nice and hot! You can leave your parkas and snow boots in your suitcase for now. But be sure to have your bug spray, since we are going to the jungle!Right along the equator is where we find category A – Tropical Moist Climates. These are the tropical rainforests of the world.
This climate zone is very hot and experiences high levels of rainfall year round. The average temperature for all months throughout the year is greater than 64 degrees Fahrenheit.Traveling slightly north or south of the equator, we now find ourselves in B – Dry Climates. It is still really hot, but these are our deserts. So, break out the sunscreen and sun hats.Summers are extremely hot and dry, and winters can get quite cold.
Only very specialized plants are able to live in this environment, since it is possible for plants to lose more water through evaporation than they would receive through rainfall.As we continue to move away from the equator, we enter the yellow zone on our map: C – Mid-Latitude Climates with Mild Winters. These are our temperate, or comfortable, climates. Here, we have summers that are warm to hot with mild winters. The coldest month averages between 27 degrees and 64 degrees Fahrenheit.We are continuing on our trek, and it’s starting to get colder! We are entering zone D – Mid-Latitude Climates with Cold Winters. This is where we find the taiga, snow forests, or pine forests.
Here, summers are warm, the hottest month averages above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. And winters are cold; the coldest month averages below 27 degrees Fahrenheit.All right! We have made it to zone E – Polar Climates, or the arctic! Here, you must be very careful going outside. In the winter, if you are not dressed properly, you can get frostbite in under ten minutes. In the arctic, the average temperature for the warmest month is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sub-Categories of the Koppen Climate Classification
As you probably noticed during our trip, you can see a lot of variability within each of the climate zones. For example, the steppe and the desert are both part of zone B – Dry Climates.
This is where the subcategories of the Koppen Climate system come into play. These subcategories seem overwhelming at first, but they do follow a pattern. With a little bit of patience, you will be rattling them off in no time!Lowercase letters f, m, s and w are used to differentiate patterns of rainfall and are only used for the moist climate categories, Zones A, C and D. f is for rainfall, and indicates precipitation all year round, with no dry season.
Zone Af, for example, is Tropical Wet. This is a jungle that receives rainfall evenly dispersed throughout the year. The driest month still receives at least 2.
4 inches of rain.s stands for a dry summer season, and w stands for a dry winter season. Zone Aw is Tropical Wet and Dry. In this climate, there are more than two months with less than 2.4 inches of rainfall.
This would be considered the dry season and, as the category indicates, it occurs during the winter.m is for monsoon. Monsoon climates have a definite wet season and a short dry season. Dry months receive less than 2.4 inches of rain. This category is only found in Zone A, as the classification Am – Tropical Monsoon.
As we discussed earlier, Zone B, the Dry Climates, are further broken down into the uppercase letters S and W. S is for steppe, the semi-dry zones. W is for deserts, or dry zones. Though it is a bit dramatic, you can think of W as standing for wasteland.
The Polar Climates, Zone E, also have two subtypes, indicated by the capital letters F and T. T is for tundra and F is for frozen. Zone EF, for example is the Polar Ice Cap and is permanently covered in ice.Zone ET is the Polar Tundra, which thaws during the summer.Zones B, C and D, which cover the majority of the planet, are even further divided into a third subcategory.Zone B, the Dry Climates, also use the lowercase letters h and k for hot and kold.
In dry climates designated with an h, the coldest month stays above 32 degrees Fahrenheit. In dry climates designated with a k, the coldest month drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Zone BWk, for example, indicates a cold desert.Finally, for Zones C and D, the Mid-Latitude Climates, the lowercase letters a, b, c and d are used to signify seasonal differences in temperature. a is for hot summers, where the warmest month is over 72 degrees Fahrenheit. b is for warm summers, where the hottest month stays below 72 degrees Fahrenheit. c indicates cool, short summers with the majority of the year under 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
d indicates very cold winters with the coldest month dropping below -36 degrees Fahrenheit.For example, Zone Cfc is Marine-Cool Winter. This is a mild climate with no dry season and cool summers. The average temperature of all months is under 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
Most months are under 50 degrees Fahrenheit.Here is a map that shows the entire breakdown of the Koppen Climate Classifications.
I hope you enjoyed our trip! Before you go, let’s review what we have learned. The hottest part of the globe is the equator, which receives the most direct sunlight. This is climate zone A – Tropical Moist Climates, the tropical rainforests of the world.
As we move away from the equator, either north or south, the temperatures start to cool down and the climates change. Category B – Dry Climates are the deserts. Most of the world lives in zones C or D.
Category C – Mid-Latitude Climates with Mild Winters are the temperate, or comfortable climates. Category zone D – Mid-Latitude Climates with Cold Winters is where we find the taiga, snow forests, or pine forests. Finally, zone E – Polar Climates is the arctic.Since there is a lot of variability within the zones, subcategories help us further distinguish the global climates.
The moist climate Zones A, C and D use the lowercase letters f, m, s and w to differentiate patters in rainfall. f stands for rainfall, and indicates climates without an obvious dry season.m is used for tropical climates with a monsoon weather pattern. These areas have a short dry season of only a couple months.
s and w indicate defined dry seasons. For category s, the dry season is in the summer, and for category w, the dry season is in the winter.Zone B, the Dry Climates, have subcategories indicated by the capital letters S and W. S is for steppe, which is semi-dry, and W is for the dry desert. You can think of W as standing for wasteland.Similarly, Zone E, the Polar Climates, also have subcategories.
The uppercase F, for frozen, is permanently covered in ice. The uppercase T, for tundra, thaws during the summer months.Zones B, C and D have a third subcategory. Zone B, the Dry Climates, use the lowercase letters h, for hot, and k for kold, to indicate whether or not the climate freezes during the winter.Zones C and D use the lowercase letters a, b, c and d to distinguish between seasonal differences in temperature.
a represents the warmest seasonal averages, and d represents the coldest seasonal averages.
With comprehensive study of this lesson comes the knowledge required to:
- Categorize the Koppen Climate Classification System
- Identify the subcategory zones of the system