What is a Humid Continental Climate?

Much of the American Midwest has a humid continental climate.
Much of the American Midwest has a humid continental climate.

Wladimir Köppen, a Russian-German climatologist, defined a humid continental climate to be a climatic region which is identified by large differences in seasonal temperatures. According to Köppen's definition which was given in 1900, such areas experience warm to hot summers that are often humid and cold to sometimes frigid cold winters. Besides, precipitation within such climatic regions tend to be well distributed all year round.Regarding this definition, the coldest month experiences a mean temperate of 26.6 °F while at least four months experience an average temperature of 50 °F or above. However, a region experiencing humid continental climatic must not be arid or semi-arid. According to the Köppen-Geiger-Pohl system, the humid continental climate is divided into Dfa, Dfb, Dwa and Dwb subtypes which are also called hemiboreal.

Definition Of Humid Continental Climate

The climate regime which is determined by climatological averages through a period of 30 years uses a three letter code. The first letter code always begins with the capital letter D. The letter that follows is either f: does not meet either of the alternative specifications, s: dry summer or w: dry winter. The last letter is either a: warmest month whose averages are over 71.6 °F or b: does not meet the requirement for ‘a’ but comprises of four months above 50 °F

Areas That Experience Humid Continental Climate

The humid continental climate is found somewhere between 30° and 60° North in the northeastern and central regions of Asia, Europe, and North America. Since the Southern Hemisphere comprises of a larger ocean area as well as the consequent greater maritime moderation, a humid continental climate is less likely to be found in this region. Therefore, the humid continental climate together with the continental subarctic climate are phenomena primarily experienced in the Northern Hemispheric regions. Humid continental climate in places such as Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Scandinavia are heavily influenced by maritime influences experiencing below freezing mark winters and relatively cool summers. The American Midwest and Southern Siberia experience more extreme humid continental climates comprising of colder winters and hotter summer maxima compared to the marine-based variety. In areas like Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the humid continental climate features both strong subarctic and subtropical air mass, but it primarily depends on the season. For example, frigid winters and the hot and humid summers.

Precipitation In A Humid Continental Climate

Precipitation in humid continental climatic regions is derived from either frontal cyclones or convectional showers which occur when maritime tropical air pushes northward behind the retreating polar front.Due to such connective activity, a good number of regions experience distinct summer precipitation maximum. However, it is not uncommon to find more uniform patterns. Early summer occurrences include severe cases of tornadoes and thunderstorms especially when the polar front happens to be in the Dfa region's southern margin. On the other hand, winter precipitation mostly occurs in snow form where from one to four months a continuous snow cover is established in a majority of the region especially the north. More often than not, the snow starts falling in conjunction with high winds coming from a severe frontal cyclone resulting to a blizzard.

Vegetation In A Humid Continental Climate

By definition, the type of vegetation that thrives in a humid continental climate are forests. The biomes that do well within this type of climate regime include coniferous forests, temperature deciduous, temperate woodlands, temperate evergreen forests and temperate grasslands. In wetter areas of the humid continental climatic regions vegetation such as fir, spruce, oak, and pine are present, and during autumn seasons falling foliage is noted.


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