In geography, the temperate or tepid climates of Earth occur in the middle latitudes, which span between the tropics and the polar regions.[1] These zones generally have wider temperature ranges throughout the year and more distinct seasonal changes compared to tropical climates, where such variations are often small.

In the Koppen climate classification, a climate is termed "temperate" when the coldest month has a mean temperature above -3 C (26.6 F) but below 18 C (64.4 F). Later climate classifications and updates redefined this broad temperate zone into smaller zones to better fit actual climate and vegetation zones (see below).[2][3]

Zones and climates

The north temperate zone extends from the Tropic of Cancer (approximately 23.5° north latitude) to the Arctic Circle (approximately 66.5° north latitude). The south temperate zone extends from the Tropic of Capricorn (approximately 23.5° south latitude) to the Antarctic Circle (at approximately 66.5° south latitude).[4][5]

In some climate classifications, the temperate zone is often divided into several smaller climate zones, based on monthly temperatures, the coldest month, and rainfall. These include humid subtropical climate, Mediterranean climate, oceanic, and continental climate.

Subtropical Climates

Subtropical climates are generally located between 23.5° and 35.0° north or south latitude on the eastern or leeward sides of landmasses. This climate has long, generally hot, summers and short, mild winters, with annual rainfall often concentrated in the warmest part of the year. These climates may occur in southern Asia, the southeastern United States, parts of eastern Australia, and in eastern coastal South America.

Mediterranean Climates

Mediterranean climates occur generally between 30° and 42° north and south latitude, on the western sides of landmasses. This climate has long hot summers and short mild winters; however, seasonal rainfall is the opposite of that of the subtropical humid type, with a winter or cool season rainfall peak being typical, and summer as drier season. These climates occur near the rimlands of the Mediterranean Sea, in western and southern Australia, in California and the Pacific Northwest region of North America, in southwestern South America, and in the southernmost areas of South Africa.

Oceanic Climates

The Oceanic climates occur in the higher middle latitudes, between 45° and 60° north and south latitude. They are created by the onshore flow from the cool high latitude oceans to their west. This causes the climate to have cool summers and cool (but not cold) winters. These climates are frequently cloudy. Annual rainfall is spread throughout the entire year. Regions with this climate include Western Europe, northwestern North America, southeastern and southwestern South America, southeastern Australia and parts of New Zealand.

Subtropical Highland climates

The subtropical highland variety of the oceanic climate exists in elevated portions of the world that are within either the tropics or subtropics, though it is typically found in mountainous locations in some tropical countries. Despite the latitude, the higher altitudes of these regions mean that the climate tends to share characteristics with oceanic climates, though it also tends to experience noticeably drier weather during the lower-sun "winter" season. It mainly occurs in elevated areas of Subsaharan Africa and South America, on the Andes Mountains and on the Brazilian Highlands at the southern and southeastern portions of the country, and some mountainous areas across Southeast Asia and Southern Europe

Continental Climates

The Continental climates occur in middle latitudes, between 40° and 55°. These climates are normally inland or on leeward sides of landmasses. They feature warm to hot summers and cold winters, with a large interseasonal temperature variation. Regions with this climate include northern temperate Asia, the northern United States, southern Canada, and parts of northeastern Europe.

Boreal Climate

Boreal Climate or Subactic Climate is a climate characterised by long, usually very cold winters, and short, cool to mild summers. It is found on large landmasses, away from the moderating effects of an ocean, generally at latitudes from 50° to 70°N poleward of the humid continental climates.

Human Aspects

Demography, Fauna and Flora

The vast majority of the world's human population resides in temperate zones, especially in the northern hemisphere, due to its greater mass of land.[6] The richest temperate flora in the world is found in southern Africa, where some 24,000 taxa (species and infraspecific taxa) have been described.[7]


Farming is a large-scale practice in the temperate regions (except for Boreal/Subarctic regions) due to the plentiful rainfall and warm summers, because most agricultural activity occurs in the spring and summer, cold winters have a small effect on agricultural production. Extreme winters or summers have a huge impact on the productivity of agriculture.[8]


Temperate regions have the majority of the world's population, which leads to large cities. There are a couple factors why the climate of large city landscapes differs from the climate of rural areas. One factor is the strength of the absorption rate of builds and asphalt, which is higher than natural land. The other large factor is the burning of fossil fuels from buildings and vehicles. These factors have led to the average climate of cities to be warmer than surrounding areas.[8]


It is common to mistake "Temperate Climate" as being just one climate, usually naming the Oceanic climate as being the one and only Temperate climate, and putting other climates such as the Humid Subtropical, Continental, Boreal or the Mediterranean as being separate climates other than Temperate. This is wrong because Temperate is not one unique climate but rather a basic definition which holds a spectrum of climates based on average seasonal temperature, humidity and precipitation, with "Temperate" basically being any climate with a cold/cooler season (Winter with a mean temperature above -3 C [26.6 F] but below 18 C [64.4 F]) and a hot/warmer season (Summer) and further variations being the Humid Subtropical, Oceanic, Continental, Mediterranean, Boreal and others.

Along with this, the Humid Suptropical climate may be wrongly separated from the Temperate group of climates, and further associated with the Tropical climates, much because of its name, temperatures and the vegetation found in Subtropical zones which can be somewhat similar to that of Tropical regions (For instance the Atlantic Forest of Brazil is spread across both Temperate and Tropical zones of the country). This can similarly happen to Mediterranean regions (Palm trees and other plants associated with Tropical, Arid or Hot Semiarid climates happen to exist in Mediterranean climates)

See also


  1. ^ "Weather & Climate Change: Climates around the world". Education Scotland. 
  2. ^ "Latitude & Climate Zones". The Environmental Literacy Council. Retrieved 15 July 2017. 
  3. ^ "Patterns of Climate". Retrieved 15 July 2017. 
  4. ^ McColl, R. W. (2005). Encyclopedia of World Geography, Volume 1. (Facts on File Library of World Geography). New York: Facts on File. p. 919. ISBN 0-816-05786-9. 
  5. ^ "Solar Illumination: Seasonal and Diurnal Patterns". Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved October 4, 2012. 
  6. ^ Cohen, Joel E.; Christopher Small (November 24, 1998). "Hypsographic demography: The distribution of human population by altitude". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 95. Washington, D.C.: The Academy. pp. 14009–14014. PMC 24316Freely accessible. 
  7. ^ Germishuizen, G.; Meyer, N. L. (2003). "Plants of southern Africa: An annotated checklist". Strelitzia. 14: 1–1231. Retrieved June 23, 2015. 
  8. ^ a b Burroughs, William J (1999). The Climate Revealed. New York: The Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge. p. 114. ISBN 0 521 77081 5.