Wladimir Köppen (1846-1940) was a German botanist and climatologist who created a climate classification system categorized by climate zones throughout the world based on local vegetation at the end of the 19th century. He worked with Rudolf Geiger (1894-1981), a German climatologist and meteorologist, and found that vegetation and climate linked together based on two key factors: temperature and precipitation. Since vegetation relies heavily on temperature and precipitation, they found that areas with more rainfall and higher temperatures had more forests compared to areas with less rainfall and high temperatures tend to be deserts. The Köppen-Geiger Climate Classification System is separated into five climate zones based on temperature that allows different vegetation growth. In 1928, they created a map of the world and used different shades of colors to represent the different climate zones. The five climate zones are Zone A: Tropical Climates, Zone B: Dry Climates, Zone C: Mild Climates, Zone D: Continental Climates, and Zone E: Polar Climates. All the climate zones besides Zone B: Dry Climates are classified by temperature. Zone B is classified by dryness so categorized by precipitation. (National Geographic Soceity, 2022).
It’s important to understand these five climate zones because each is categorized into different climate regions that are still used in the present day (National Geographic Soceity, 2022).
Zone A: Tropical Climates
Tropical Moist Climates can be found about 15 to 25 degrees latitude northwards and southwards of the equator. Within this category, there are three climate types in the tropical group: Tropical wet, tropical monsoon and tropical wet and dry. Tropical wet climates are also known as rainforests where the temperature is warm ranging from 68-73 degrees Fahrenheit in the mornings and 86-91 degrees Fahrenheit in the afternoons. It is the most predictable weather on Earth and gets over 59 inches of rain a year. Some examples of tropical wet climates are Hawaii, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Belem, Brazil. Next, the Tropical monsoon climates can be found in southern Asia and West Africa. In the summertime, these monsoons bring a large amount of rainfall to the region. People living in these regions depend on the seasonal rain to bring water to their crops for survival. The most famous monsoon climate patterns take place in India and Bangladesh. Lastly, the Tropical Wet and Dry climates take place in the grasslands ecosystem. This can also be called the Savanna. Tropical wet and dry climates are located near the equator and have three seasons: cool and dry, hot and dry, and hot and wet. This region is more unpredictable as when rain is light, people and animals suffer through droughts, and during rainy years, the region can experience flooding. Some examples of this region include Havana, Cuba, Kolkata, India and Africa’s Serengeti Plain.
Zone B: Dry Climates
Dry Climate zones can be found 20 to 35 degrees north and south of the equator. Precipitation is extremely low ranging from four to twelve inches of rain each year. There are two types of dry climate types called arid and semiarid. The hottest regions of the world are arid climates, such as Death Valley National Park, located in California USA. The highest temperature ever recorded in this area was 134 degrees Fahrenheit on July 10,1913. Another arid place on Earth is the Atacama Desert of Chile, located on the west coast of South America, which is known as the driest place on Earth as it has never rained in this area. Semiarid regions receive 10 to 20 inches of rainfall per year. They are located between arid and tropical regions. An example of a semiarid region is the Australian outback.
Zone C: Mild Climates (Temperate Climate)
The Mild Climate zone has a distinct cold season and is influenced by latitude and a region’s position on the continent. There are three types of Mild Climates: the Mediterranean climate, the humid subtropical climate and the marine west coast. The Mediterranean climate can be found between 30 and 40 degrees latitude and along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, where their summers are warm and short and their winters are rainy. The humid subtropical climates are located on the eastern sides of the continents. Some examples include Savannah, Georgia, Shanghai, China and Sydney, Australia. Their summers are hot and humid and winters are extremely cold. It is common for these regions to get 30-65 inches of rain each year and also experience hurricanes and violent storms. Lastly, the Marine West Coast climate has longer and cooler winters where precipitation occurs two- thirds of the winter days and the temperature averages 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Cities like Seattle, Washington USA and Wellington, New Zealand are examples of this type of climate.
Zone D: Continental Climates
The Continental Climate zones experience harsh, cold winters with lots of snow and shorter growing seasons. These climates occur only in the Northern Hemisphere. This zone experiences extreme seasonal changes. In addition, powerful thunderstorms and tornadoes are also seen here. There are three types of continental climates: warm summer, cool summer and subarctic. Most Eastern European countries including Romania and Georgia have warm summer climates with wet summer seasons similar to monsoon climates. Cool summer climates have harsh winters with snow, low temperatures and cold winds. Lastly, the subarctic climate experiences very long, cold winters with little precipitation. This is seen in Scandinavia and Siberia.
Zone E: Polar Climates
Polar Climate zones are located in the northern coastal areas of North America, Europe, Asia, Greenland and Antarctica. These polar climates have cold temperatures all year round and experience 50 degrees Fahrenheit at most during the warmer months. The two polar climates types are called Tundra and Ice Cap, which are located near the North and South Poles within the Arctic and Antarctic Circles. In tundra climates, July is the warmest month, reaching the average temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Summers are rather short, but animals and plants thrive. Wildflowers, birds, whales, insects, fish and even people have adapted to live on the tundra for thousands of years. On the other hand, the ice cap climate is completely different compared to the tundra climate. Temperatures are extremely cold, rarely rising above freezing even in the summer months. Although precipitation is low, the presence of ice helps keep the weather cold. A fun fact about the ice cap climate is that the largest, driest desert on Earth is located in Antarctica.