Climate 101

What is “climate”?

  • The pattern of weather in a specific place, over a long period of time
  • Climate is defined mostly based on temperature and precipitation,  also somewhat determined by  elevation, latitude and even large bodies of water nearby


What are the five major types of climate?

  • Tropical
  • Dry
  • Temperate
  • Continental
  • Polar

This is known as the “Koppen Climate Classification” system.




Tropical Climates

Tropical climates are warm, and spend most or all of the year getting lots of rain.

Wet tropical climates are know as tropical rainforests.

Some tropical areas have shifting winds, known as monsoons.

Savanna areas have wet, rainy periods as well as dry periods.


What kinds of plats grow in tropical climates?





Dry Climates

Dry climates are considered arid and semiarid, depending on how much rain falls.

Arid regions only get around 4-12 inches of rain per year. These areas are what we think of as “desert”.

Semiarid regions are similar to deserts, but get a little more rain (10-20 inches per year), and have seasons where grasslands can grow.

What kinds of plants grow in dry climates?


Temperate Climates

These regions have milder weather, and are near large bodies of water, like the Mediterranean Sea or the Pacific Ocean. The bodies of weather help control the climate, and maintain more steady weather patterns





Continental Climates

Continental climates involve large parts of the globe, including much of North America. In the continental climates, winters are colder, and summers may be cool, warm or hot.

Continental climates have transitions between the hot and cold seasons, with the typical “spring” and “autumn” that is seen in much of the United States.

Continental climates are also where one is most likely to encounter weather patterns of thunderstorms and tornadoes.


Polar Climates

Polar climates include the tundra and the polar ice caps. In the tundra, which usually borders ice caps, temperatures may reach as high as 50 degrees F in the warmest months. In ice cap climates, though, the average temperature never rises above freezing.