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The Natural Environment

Climates

Most of Asia’s climates are similar to the interior and eastern-coast climates of North America at similar latitudes. Like northern Canada, the northernmost areas of Asia have a subpolar climate with very long, cold winters and very short, cool summers.

A vast area with a subarctic climate lies farther inland and generally southward. It is isolated from the Arctic Ocean and is little influenced by the Pacific because the prevailing winds blow from the west. This area experiences great extremes of temperature. Summers are short, but temperatures can reach as high as 34°C (94°F), and winter temperatures are among the coldest in the world.

South of the subarctic regions is a broad stretch of land having a humid continental climate with short summers. Winters are severe, but summer days are warm or even hot. In Russia, the subarctic region extends from the border with Poland on the west to Siberia on the east, and includes much of the country’s best farmland. Northern China and central Japan also have a humid continental climate, but their summers are long. This is similar to the climate of the midwestern United States, although northern China generally has drier winters.

A humid subtropical climate, similar to that of the southeastern United States, occurs in southeastern China and southern Japan. Both areas receive precipitation throughout the year. Northern India south of the Himalayas also has a subtropical climate. Moisture-laden winds called monsoons carry heavy precipitation to the region in summer. The winters are dry. This rainy-and-dry, tropical climate, which is also characteristic of much of Indochina, is influenced by the seasonal movement of air masses. The summer monsoons usually occur between May and October in areas north of the equator. If the monsoons arrive late, the lack of rain may ruin crops or keep them from growing, causing food shortages for millions of people.

India’s southwestern coast and the coastal areas and islands of Southeast Asia experience heavy rain throughout the year. Near the equator, this rain results from hot humid air that rises and expands, then cools in the upper atmosphere and condenses into rain. In the coastal areas farther north of the equator, such as the southwestern coast of India, the rainy tropical climate is the result of constant moisture-laden winds coming largely from the sea.

Vast areas of Central and Southwest Asia are arid or semiarid. In Central Asia, mountains and highlands block moisture-bearing winds from the sea.

Only a few areas of Asia have climates that are typical of the west coasts of continents. A portion of Asia bordering on the Mediterranean Sea in Lebanon and Egypt has a subtropical climate with dry summers. This is similar to the climate of southern California.

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