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Hawaii, Climate and Soil
podzols, soil composition, wetter, soil characteristics, water runoff
Climate has a profound effect on soil composition. Soil types are composed of minerals, organic matter (decaying plant and animal material), water, and air. Soils differ depending on how much of these different ingredients they contain, and climate contributes to those differences. Climatic conditions, such as high wind and heavy rain, can accelerate the breakup of rocks into the small particles that form the basic material of soil. In addition, precipitation controls the movement of nutrients and chemicals in soils. For example, continuous heavy rains can cause leaching, a percolating process that carries away minerals that support plant life.
Climate also affects soils indirectly by acting through vegetation and animal life. A favorable climate that supports a large number of plants and animals may produce more productive soil due to the presence of humus, decaying plant and animal material that adds rich nutrients to the soil.
In the United States, soil characteristics vary considerably by climatic region. For example, soils in cooler continental climates are known as podzols, a soil type that is not very fertile. The leaching action of heavy rain and water runoff removes many of the nutrients from podzols. Lateritic soils, one of the least fertile soil types, are found in wetter and hotter climates. They are the dominant soil type in the southeast, particularly in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. Rich, dark soils called chernozems are found in the Midwest and in grassland areas to the west. These are some of the richest soils in the world.
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