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The Natural Environment

Climate

Although North America has considerable climatic variety, five principal climatic regions can be identified. The northern two-thirds of Canada and Alaska, as well as all of Greenland, have subarctic and arctic climates, in which long, dark, bitterly cold winters alternate with brief, mild summers. Most of the region, which receives relatively little precipitation, is covered with snow and ice during much of the year. A second climatic region is made up of the eastern two-thirds of the United States and southern Canada. It is characterized by a humid climate in which all four seasons are evident, and weather changes are frequent. The southern part of this region has a warmer average temperature. A third region includes the western interior of the United States and much of northern Mexico. It is mostly mountain and desert country, generally receiving small amounts of precipitation, but with significant local variations due to altitude and exposure. A fourth climatic region is made up of a narrow zone along the Pacific Ocean from southern Alaska to southern California. It has relatively mild but wet winters and almost rainless summers. Most of southern Mexico has a tropical climate, with year-round warmth and considerable precipitation, especially in summer.

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