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Areas of the world that feature a continental climate, according to Köppen

Continental climates often have a significant annual variation in temperature (warm to hot summers and cold winters). They tend to occur in central and eastern parts of the three northern-tier continents (North America, Europe, and Asia), typically in the middle latitudes (40 to 55 or 60 degrees north), often within large landmasses, where prevailing winds blow overland bringing some precipitation, and temperatures are not moderated by oceans. Continental climates occur mostly in the Northern Hemisphere due to the large landmasses found there. Most of northeastern China, eastern and southeastern Europe, much of Russia south of the arctic circle, central and southeastern Canada, and the central and northeastern United States have this type of climate.[1] Continentality is a measure of the degree to which a region experiences this type of climate.[1]

In continental climates, precipitation tends to be moderate in amount, concentrated mostly in the warmer months. Only a few areas—in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest of North America and in Iran, northern Iraq, adjacent Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia—show a winter maximum in precipitation. A portion of the annual precipitation falls as snowfall, and snow often remains on the ground for more than a month. Summers in continental climates can feature thunderstorms and frequent hot temperatures; however, summer weather is somewhat more stable than winter weather. Continental climates are considered as temperate climate varieties due to their location in the temperate zones,[2][3] but are classified separately from other temperate climates in the Köppen climate classification system where they are identified by their first letter, a capital D. In the Trewartha climate classification, they are identified as Dc.

Köppen climate classification

Continental climate has at least one month averaging below 0 °C (32 °F) (or −3 °C (27 °F)) and at least one month averaging above 10 °C (50 °F).[4][5]

Regions where the continental climates (Dfa, Dfb, Dfc, Dfd) are found.
Regions where the Monsoon-influenced continental climates (Dwa, Dwb, Dwc, Dwd) are found.
Regions where the Mediterranean-influenced continental climates (Dsa, Dsb, Dsc, Dsd) are found.


Annual precipitation in this zone is usually between 600 millimetres (24 in) and 1,200 millimetres (47 in), The timing of intermediate spring-like or autumn-like temperatures in this zone vary depending on latitude and/or elevation. For example, spring may arrive as soon as March (in Northern hemisphere, September in Southern hemisphere) in the southern (in Northern hemisphere, northern in Southern hemisphere), parts of this zone or as late as May (November) in the north (south). Summers are warm or hot while winters are below freezing and sustain lots of frost.


Continental climates exist where cold air masses infiltrate during the winter from shorter days and warm air masses form in summer under conditions of high sun and longer days. Places with continental climates are as a rule either far from any moderating effect of oceans or are so situated that prevailing winds tend to head offshore.[6] Such regions get quite warm in the summer, achieving temperatures characteristic of tropical climates but are colder than any other climates of similar latitude in the winter.

Neighboring climates

In the Köppen climate system, these climates grade off toward temperate climates equator-ward where winters are less severe and semi-arid climates or arid climates where precipitation becomes inadequate for tall-grass prairies and shrublands. In Europe these climates may grade off into oceanic climates (Cfb) or subpolar oceanic climates (Cfc) in which the influence of cool oceanic air masses is more marked toward the west. In western and eastern Asia, and the central United States these climates grade off toward humid subtropical climates (Cfa/Cwa), subtropical highland climates (Cwb), or Mediterranean climates (Csa/Csb) to the south.

List of locations with a continental climate

^1 The climate is continental if the 0°C coldest-month isotherm is used, but it is temperate if the -3°C isotherm is used.





Kargil, India
The snowy city of Sapporo, Japan


Chamonix valley, France
Aker Brygge in Oslo
Spassky Cathedral in Moscow

North America


Saint Pierre and Miquelon

Port of Miquelon

United States

Chicago's Near North Side
St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Green Bay, Wisconsin
Boston's skyline in the background, with fall foliage in the foreground
Buffalo after December 2019 snowstorm
Downtown Pittsburgh from Station Square
Alum Cave Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Downtown Aspen, Colorado
Government Camp, Oregon
Nenana, Alaska
Winthrop, Washington



Kiandra police station

South America


Puente del Inca in July


Lonquimay in Winter

See also


  1. ^ a b "Continental Climate". Encyclopedia of the Atmospheric Environment. Manchester Metropolitan University. Archived from the original on 2009-04-27.
  2. ^ Senker, Cath (3 May 2018). Temperate Climates. Raintree Publishers. p. 5. ISBN 9781474738408. Retrieved 23 June 2023.
  3. ^ "Weather & Climate Change: Climates around the world". Education Scotland. Archived from the original on 14 April 2016.
  4. ^ Peel, M. C.; Finlayson B. L. & McMahon, T. A. (2007). "Updated world map of the Köppen–Geiger climate classification" (PDF). Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. 11 (5): 1633–1644. Bibcode:2007HESS...11.1633P. doi:10.5194/Hess-11-1633-2007. ISSN 1027-5606.
  5. ^ Kottek, Markus; Grieser, Jürgen; Beck, Christoph; Rudolf, Bruno; Rubel, Franz (2006). "World Map of the Köppen-Geiger climate classification updated" (PDF). Meteorologische Zeitschrift. 15 (3): 259–263. Bibcode:2006MetZe..15..259K. doi:10.1127/0941-2948/2006/0130.
  6. ^ "What Is a Continental Climate?". WorldAtlas. 2019-05-21. Retrieved 2022-04-04.