What is a Mediterranean Climate?

A Mediterranean climate has mild, wet winters and warm to hot, dry summers.

When mentioning the Mediterranean climate, the first place that is thought of is the region along the Mediterranean Sea. Countries such as Italy, Spain, and Greece are among those places that come to the minds of many. This is the region that shares the climate's namesake, as well as the climate itself. However, this isn't the only place where the Mediterranean climate is found.

Defining the Mediterranean Climate

In order to understand the Mediterranean climate and where it is found, this climate needs to be defined. This type of climate is defined by mild, wet winters and warm to hot, dry summers. It isn't the temperature range that makes this climate distinct. There are many places throughout the world that have temperature ranges similar to what would be found in Mediterranean climates. It is the rainfall pattern that makes the Mediterranean climate distinct. Very often, places with warm summers and mild winters receive large amounts of precipitation during the summer months. Summers in Mediterranean climates are distinctively dry.

Where to Find the Mediterranean Climate

This climate's namesake indicates that it would be found in regions along the Mediterranean Sea. Places such as Southern Spain, the south of France, Italy, Croatia's Adriatic Coast, Greece, Turkey's Mediterranean Coast, Lebanon, Israel, coastal Tunisia, and several islands of the Mediterranean Sea have this kind of climate. These are not the only places where this kind of climate can be found.

The Mediterranean climate can be found in every continent except for Antarctica. In North America, the Mediterranean climate is found in central and southern California. In addition, the far northwest corner of Mexico in northern Baja Californnia. In South America, Chile's Central Valley is represented by this climate. In addition to Europe's Mediterranean regions, southern Portugal, which is located on the Atlantic Ocean, has a Mediterranean climate. Africa has two Mediterranean climate zones. One ranges from Morocco's Atlantic coast to parts of Africa's Mediterranean regions, which have been mentioned in the previous paragraph. Another Mediterranean climate zone in Africa is in southwestern South Africa, the Western Cape. Asia's Mediterranean climate zone is represented in Israel, Lebanon, Southern Turkey, and northwest Iran. Australia's southwest coast has a Mediterranean climate.

Factors Influencing the Mediterranean Climate

If an individual analyzes a map, there is one major pattern to be noticed. Outside of the Mediterranean region, the distribution of the Mediterranean climate is somewhat sparse. This type of climate is also highly concentrated on the western coasts of continents. Very often, regions with Mediterranean climates will be located near semidesert, desert, or oceanic moist climates. The latitudes for the Mediterranean climate vary from 30 degrees to 45 degrees.

The location of Mediterranean climate regions depends on influences such atmospheric pressure systems and ocean currents. Mediterranean climates outside of the Mediterranean region are often found in places with high pressure systems. For instance, with the Western Cape region of South Africa, its Mediterranean climate is shaped by the South Atlantic High. With high atmospheric pressure, the air sinks. This creates cloudless conditions and sunny skies, particularly in the summer months. The movement of the anticyclones (high pressure systems) influences the rainfall patterns found in Mediterranean climates.

Plants Found In Mediterranean Climates

The flora in Mediterranean climates is well adapted to the climate. Plants in such climates must be adapted to long summers without adequate rainfall, as well as wet winters. Evergreen sclerophyll shrubs and sclerophyll trees are among the flora that are well adapted to Mediterranean climates. These types of shrubs and trees have hard leaves. The distance between the leaves along the stems is shorter than other plants. The leaves tend to be smaller and thicker. This trait aids in retaining more water. Sclerophyll leaves are also leathery, which help in tolerating the hot summers.

Human Settlement In the Mediterranean Climate

Some of the world's oldest cities are located in Mediterranean climates. Among them are Rome, Jerusalem, Beirut, and Izmir. Many civilizations flourished in the Mediterranean Basin. The climate itself played a major factor in civilizations growing in the region. A mild to warm climate with seasonal rainfalls in the winter months helped in the cultivation of grain crops such as barley and wheat. Grapes and olives grow well in Mediterranean climates due to ideal soil types and dry summers. Wheat is a staple food. It is referred to as 'the staff of life". Places where wheat could grow (especially in Mediterranean climates), a food supply was available, and civilizations could flourish.

Today, Mediterranean climates are not only suitable for agriculture, they serve as places where many people prefer to live in. Many people seek out areas with mild to warm climates that are perceived to be healthier than tropical climates. Many cities such as San Diego and Barcelona have seen their populations grow over the last 3 decades. Warm, dry climates are just one of the reasons for this.

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