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Physical Geography of Northern Eurasia

Climate at Present and in the Historical Past

<<< The Development of a Zonal Structure in Modern Landscapes | Physical Geography Index | General Atmospheric Circulation >>>


The climate of Northern Eurasia has two main characteristics: low winter temperatures over most of the continent and aridity in its southern part. Three main factors are responsible for the formation of the Eurasian climates: the northern position of the continent, its remarkable size, and the arrangement of mountainous systems.

Northern Eurasia, defined as the territory of the former Soviet Union (FSU), extends from 35°N in Central Asia to 78°N in the Siberian Arctic and most of the territory is positioned in high latitudes, north of the 50th parallel. Northern Eurasia extends from 20°E to the date line and most of it is landlocked. Therefore, the climate of Northern Eurasia is characterized by a high or extremely high degree of continentality: winters are very cold and summers are hot. The Arctic and the Pacific Oceans do little to ameliorate the climate in winter because the Arctic Ocean is frozen and climatically acts as snow-covered land while the effect of the Pacific is reduced by the steady offshore air flow. Mountains, with elevations exceeding 5 km, extend along the southern rim of Eurasia. The mountains limit the transport of moisture into the continental interiors and, more importantly, affect the general atmospheric circulation in such a way that precipitation is light over the southern part of Northern Eurasia and arid climates develop, most notably in Central Asia. Between the Arctic coast and the southern mountains lie the vast East European and West Siberian plains where a classic pattern of climatic zonality occurs in the absence of orography. By contrast, Eastern Siberia and the Far East are mountainous regions and altitude and topography play an important role in the formation of temperature and precipitation regimes. Finally, the Pacific coast experiences a monsoonal climate with its distinct alterations of dry winter and wet summer seasons.

<<< The Development of a Zonal Structure in Modern Landscapes | Physical Geography Index | General Atmospheric Circulation >>>




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