Chances are, if you live in the continental United States, in an area away from the coasts, you live in a continental climate. All continental climates occur in the northern hemisphere, between the arctic zones and the subtropical regions.
Continental climate refers to a type of climate found in the interior of continents, away from the moderating influence of large bodies of water. It is characterized by hot summers and cold winters, with a large temperature difference between the seasons.
This climate type is typically found in regions such as Central Asia, central North America, and Eastern Europe. The lack of maritime influence leads to more extreme temperature variations and lower precipitation levels compared to coastal areas.
Continental Climate Facts for Kids
- Continental climate experiences four seasons.
- Winters can be very cold.
- Summers are usually hot.
- The climate is found inland.
- Rainfall varies throughout the year.
- This climate affects Central Europe.
- It’s also common in North America.
- Days are warm, nights are cool.
- Weather changes can be drastic.
- Fall and spring are moderate seasons.
A continental climate is a specific kind of temperate climate that’s prevalent in interior regions of large land masses. This essentially means that if you were a kid positioned in the heart of a vast continent, far from the ocean’s influence, the weather you’d experience would be typical of a continental climate.
It’s a climate that’s marked by stark seasonal variations, encompassing hot summers, where temperatures could soar up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and freezing winters. Precipitation is also a notable element of this climate, often presenting as snow during the chilly winter months.
As a result of these extreme seasonal fluctuations, a diverse range of plants and animals have evolved and adapted to inhabit this climate.
Found predominantly in large land masses’ interior regions, away from the ocean’s moderating influence, ‘D’ climates, or Continental climates, are characterized by significant seasonal temperature variances. These climates can experience extreme heat in the summer and severe cold in the winter, resembling the persistent chill of Polar climates found in the Arctic, Antarctic, and high-elevation areas.
Polar climates, conversely, remain cold throughout the year, with temperatures rarely exceeding freezing. Hence, during harsh winter months, Continental climates may exhibit a semblance of Polar coldness. This comparison between Continental and Polar climates underscores the remarkable diversity and complexity inherent in our planet’s weather systems.
Children, it’s essential to understand the distinct characteristics of various climate zones, such as the Continental and Mediterranean climates. Continental climates, typically found in the heart of continents, exhibit extreme temperature variations due to their significant distance from the ocean’s moderating influence.
They experience frigid winters, sweltering summers, and substantial snowfall. Conversely, Mediterranean climates, named after the Mediterranean Sea region, are generally milder and warmer. Such climates are characterized by hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters, with snow being a rare phenomenon.
The unique conditions of these climates significantly influence the flora and fauna that inhabit these areas, resulting in diverse species unique to each climate zone.
The Subarctic climate, one of the coldest worldwide, is a continental climate typified by extremely cold, long winters and brief, cool to mild summers. It’s typically found on vast landmasses positioned between 50° to 70°N latitudes, where the ocean’s moderating effects are minimal, resulting in rapid temperature changes.
This climate is often likened by children to a place where winter seemingly lasts indefinitely, with a summer that is fleeting and lacks warmth. It is also distinguished by its prolonged snow presence, which can stay on the ground for up to nine months annually. The subarctic environment supports various wildlife, including reindeer and bears, and is heavily forested with spruces and pines.
The tundra, synonymous with a continental climate, is a distinct and harsh environment characterized by extreme temperature fluctuations and minimal rainfall. This unique climate greatly impacts the tundra, defining its vegetation, wildlife, and overall survival conditions.
It’s crucial for children to grasp that winters in the tundra, akin to a continental climate, are freezing cold, mirroring the icy conditions of the tundra. While summers in a continental climate can be hot, they are notably brief and cool in the tundra. Both the tundra and continental climates receive minimal rainfall, with the tundra receiving less than 10 inches annually, contributing to its dry, desert-like conditions.
The steppe climate also referred to as a continental climate, presents an intriguing concept for children who have an interest in science. Typically found in the interior regions of continents, far removed from the ocean’s influence, it features warm to hot summers contrasted with cold winters.
A unique aspect that sets it apart is the significant temperature difference between day and night, providing interesting trivia for young science enthusiasts. Steppe regions, including certain areas of Russia and North America, are commonly associated with minimal rainfall and are predominantly blanketed by grasslands instead of forests.
These regions harbor a diverse range of wildlife, including prairie dogs, gazelles, and eagles. Consequently, residing in a steppe climate can be likened to a continuous adventure.
The taiga, alternatively known as the boreal forest, endures a continental climate renowned for its harsh winters and brief, temperate summers. This climate is marked by significant seasonal temperature variations, with differences reaching up to 60 degrees.
Summer temperatures can escalate to 70°F (20°C), while winter can witness temperatures plunging to -60°F (-51°C). This distinctive climate paves the way for certain flora and fauna to flourish. Coniferous trees such as pine, spruce, and fir, which can endure severe cold and infertile soils, are predominant in the taiga forests.
Similarly, animals like lynx, moose, and brown bears have evolved to withstand the taiga’s intense winters. The snow, which blankets the ground for approximately half the year, serves as a protective layer for the underground ecosystem.
Permafrost, a noteworthy aspect of the continental climate observed prominently in regions like Siberia and Alaska, is ground that stays consistently frozen throughout the year for at least two consecutive years.
This perpetual freezing is a result of the extremely cold average temperatures in these regions, which are far below freezing, preventing the ground from thawing even during relatively warmer months. This condition creates a challenging terrain to traverse, but it also excellently conserves fossils, artifacts, and other valuable scientific resources.
Therefore, permafrost serves as an invaluable asset for scientists investigating climate change and historical artifacts, despite its harsh and challenging nature.
Deciduous forests are predominantly found in areas with a continental climate, characterized by significant temperature fluctuations between summer and winter. Summer temperatures can soar up to 86 degrees Fahrenheit, providing a conducive environment for tree growth, while winter often sees temperatures plummet below freezing, prompting the trees to shed their leaves to conserve water and energy.
Annual rainfall in these areas ranges from 30 to 60 inches, a crucial factor for tree growth and survival. The climatic conditions of deciduous forests create an ideal habitat for a wide variety of plant and animal species, leading to a rich biodiversity. Hence, a visit to a deciduous forest offers a view of a multitude of trees, plants, and animals, each uniquely adapted to seasonal changes.
Continental climates, typically found in the interior regions of large land masses away from oceanic influence, are characterized by extreme seasonal temperature variations, with summers being hot and winters cold.
It’s noteworthy that these climates are more prone to droughts, periods of prolonged dryness due to insufficient rainfall, often attributed to the lack of moisture from oceans, a significant source of rainfall. Drought conditions can lead to rivers drying up, plant life perishing, and a significant challenge for humans and animals alike to secure enough water. Therefore, in areas with a continental climate, it’s of paramount importance to practice wise water usage and conservation.
Warm summer climates have warm, rainy, humid summers. If you live in the Midwest, you probably experience this type of summer. Cool summer climates have harsh, cold winters and mild, cool summers. Idaho has a cool summer climate, as do areas like New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont. Subarctic climates have very long, dark winters and short summers. Alaska has a subarctic climate.
Fun Facts about Continental Climate
- Continental climates experience the most extreme weather changes. These are also the only areas where leaves change color in the fall.
- Thunderstorms, tornadoes, hail and other weather phenomenon occur here.
- If you live in a continental climate, you probably own a wardrobe that contains everything from shorts and flip flops to snow suits and gloves.
- In continental climates, you can swim in a lake in the summer and skate on it in the winter.
- People living in continental climates prepare for the seasonal changes. They store food, wood or fuel for the winter. They keep extra clothing and blankets on hand. In summer, they run fans and open screened windows.
Continental Climate Vocabulary
- Coast: area near an ocean
- Harsh: very cold, severe
- Wardrobe: clothing supply
- Extreme: intense, widely varied
Learn More All about Continental Climate
Check out this cool video about Continental Climate for kids:
A video presentation of Winter in Minneapolis Minnesota – an example of a continental climate.
Continental Climate Q&A
Question: Is it hard to live in an area with a continental climate?
Answer: People who live in these climates have adjusted to them. It’s hard to come from a mild climate to a continental climate. When Napoleon Bonaparte’s troops retreated from Russia in 1812, thousands of them died because they were accustomed to the warm Mediterranean climate of France.
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