continental climate

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continental climate

a climate characterized by hot summers, cold winters, and little rainfall, typical of the interior of a continent

Continental Climate


a climate formed when large land masses exert a dominant influence on the atmosphere; the climate in the interior of a continent.

In the temperate latitudes, a continental climate is usually characterized by a large annual range of air temperature (hot summers and cold winters) and considerable daily variations in air temperature. A continental climate differs from a marine climate in having a low mean annual temperature, low humidity, and dustier air. Cloudiness is comparatively slight in a continental climate. There is little precipitation, and the maximum precipitation usually occurs in the summer. The wind velocity is also low. The weather is more variable than in a marine climate. In a continental climate of the tropics, the annual range of air temperature is not as great as in the temperate latitudes, and more rain falls than in a marine climate. In the polar latitudes there is a large annual range of air temperature, and summers are very cold. A continental climate can also extend in a weak form to the parts of the oceans closest to the continents, if continental air masses reach them throughout the year.

A continental climate must be distinguished from a monsoonal climate, which results from the dominant influence of continental air masses in winter and oceanic air masses in summer. Gradual transitions exist between marine and continental climates. For example, the climate of Western Europe is mostly marine; the European USSR, moderately continental; Eastern Siberia, markedly continental; and the Far East, monsoonal.


continental climate

[¦känt·ən¦ent·əl ′klī·mət]
Climate characteristic of the interior of a landmass of continental size, marked by large annual, daily, and day-to-day temperature ranges, low relative humidity, and a moderate or small irregular rainfall; annual extremes of temperature occur soon after the solstices.
References in periodicals archive ?
The site is located at the transition between oceanic and continental climates, where the average air temperature in January is -1 degree Celsius.
Now, winemakers are realizing that California is better suited to grape varieties that prosper in warm, Mediterranean climates rather than those from cooler continental climates.

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