A satellite photograph of northern Europe
Northern Europe is the northern part or region of Europe. Geographically, northern Europe is usually taken to consist of Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the British Isles (United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man). Greenland (which is part of the Kingdom of Denmark) is geographically located in North America and is sometimes included in the northern Europe grouping or the Nordic countries, though rarely Scandinavia proper. Some northern parts of Russia are also in the northern part of Europe.
Historically, when Europe was dominated by the Mediterranean region (i.e., the Roman Empire), everything not near this sea was termed northern Europe, including Germany, the Low Countries, and Austria. This meaning is still used today in some contexts, such as in discussions of the Northern Renaissance. In medieval times, the term (Ultima) Thule was used to mean a mythical place in the extreme northern reaches of the continent.
Northern Europe consists of the Scandinavian peninsula, the peninsula of Jutland, the Baltic plain that lies to the east and the many islands that lie offshore from mainland northern Europe, Greenland and the main European continent. The area is defined by the volcanic islands of the far northwest, notably Iceland and Jan Mayen, the mountainous western seaboard, extending from the mountainous sections of Great Britain and Ireland to the Scandinavian mountains, the central north mountains and hills of Sweden (which are the foothills of the Scandinavian mountains) and the large eastern plain, which contains, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland.
The region has a south west extreme of just under 50 degrees north and a northern extreme of 81 degrees north. The entire region's climate is affected by the Gulf Stream which has a mild influence on the climate. From the west climates vary from maritime and maritime subarctic climates. In the north and central climates are generally subarctic or Arctic and to the east climates are mostly subarctic and temperate/continental. As the climate and relief varies vegetation is also extremely variable, with sparse tundra in the north and high mountains, boreal forest on the north-eastern and central regions temperate coniferous forests (formerly of which a majority was in the Scottish highlands and south west Norway) and temperate broadleaf forests growing in the south, west and temperate east.
With the exception of the UK and Ireland, northern European countries are known for harsh winters. For example, the Winter of 2010-2011 in Europe began already in November. Temperatures can reach as low as minus 50 degrees Celsius in some parts of northern Europe.
Countries in northern Europe are known to have large, developed economies and some of the highest standards of living in the world. All countries score highly on surveys measuring quality of life, such as the Human Development Index.
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- United Nations Statistics Division- Standard Country and Area Codes Classifications (M49)
- "Norway Climate". Visit Norway. 2011. Retrieved October 2011.