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Humid Continental Climates, Humid Continental (Warm Summer)

spodosols, squall lines, dairy center, pitch pine, degrees north latitude

The "warm summer" subregion lies farther north than the "hot summer" area. It falls roughly from 45 degrees to 60 degrees north latitude. It lies astride the United States-Canadian border and includes most of the Great Lakes region. States in this climate zone are Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, upper New York, upper Michigan, northern Wisconsin, and Minnesota, as well as North Dakota, part of South Dakota, Montana, and sections of surrounding states.

Winters in this area are harsh; snow remains on the ground for periods of up to five months. January average temperatures are less than -15 C (5 F). Summers, on the other hand, are pleasantly cool but short, with average monthly temperatures ranging from 18 C to 20 C (64 F to 68 F). This region is famous for its large annual temperature range. The difference between a warm summer day and a cold winter night may be as much as 40 C (100 F). For much of the region, the frost-free period is less than 150 days per year. The cool, short summers are not especially conducive to farming.

Precipitation is ample in all months; annual precipitation averages 800 mm (32 in). In the summer, precipitation is high when thunderstorms form along moving cold fronts and squall lines. Much of the winter precipitation is snow, which remains on the ground for long periods. The western area of prairie is a bit drier than the east.

The soils vary in the region, but spodosols are dominant. They are naturally poor soils in terms of agricultural productivity. Fertile mollisol soils are found in the Great Plains in the western part of the region. These soils support grasslands.

Much of this region was originally covered with a mixture of woodland and forest. The vegetation in the area has changed since the arrival of European settlers, who introduced nonnative trees and plants to the region. In the 20th century, dominant tree species included pitch pine, oak, hickory, and maple.

Around the Great Lakes, dairy farming became important because dairy cattle can graze on the rich grass that grows in this moist climate. The Great Lakes region is the dairy center of the United States and is well known for the production of cheese and butter. Potatoes and other root crops, along with hay and some hardy grains, are the primary agricultural crops.

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