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In geography, temperate or tepid latitudes of Earth lie between the tropics and the polar regions. The temperatures in these regions are generally relatively moderate, rather than extremely hot or cold, and the changes between summer and winter are also usually moderate.
However, in certain areas, such as Asia and central North America, the variations between summer and winter can be extreme because these areas are far away from the sea, causing them to have a continental climate. In regions traditionally considered tropical, localities at high altitudes (e.g. parts of the Andes) may have a temperate climate.
Zones and climate
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). The cooler parts of the temperate zone may be referred to as 'subtemperate'.
Temperate climate also broadly includes subtropical climate variants: subtropical semidesert/desert, humid subtropical, oceanic subtropical and Mediterranean climate. However, typically temperate climate is one of the world's four climate zones (besides the polar, subtropical, and tropical zones).
The maritime climate is affected by the oceans, which help to sustain somewhat stable temperatures throughout the year. In temperate zones the prevailing winds are from the west, thus the western edge of temperate continents most commonly experience this maritime climate. Such regions include Western Europe, and western North America at latitudes between 40° and 60° north (65°N in Europe).
Continental, semi-arid and arid are usually situated inland, with warmer summers and colder winters. Heat loss and reception are aided by extensive land mass. In North America, the Rocky Mountains act as a climate barrier to the maritime air blowing from the west, creating a semi-arid and continental climate to the east. In Europe, the maritime climate is able to stabilize inland temperature, because the major mountain range – the Alps – is oriented east-west (the area east of the long Scandinavian mountain range is an exception).
The vast majority of the world's human population resides in temperate zones (if defined as comprising the subtropics as well), especially in the northern hemisphere because of its greater mass of land. The richest temperate flora in the world is found in southern Africa, where some 24,000 taxa (species and infraspecific taxa) have been described.
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...the north-south aligned Rocky Mountains act as a climate barrier to the mild maritime air blowing from the west.
- "Climate of Switzerland". Swiss University. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
The Alps act as a climate barrier: Southern Switzerland, which is mainly influenced by the Mediterranean Sea, is characterized by a much milder climate than Northern Switzerland.
- Brinch, Brian (2007-11-01). "How mountains influence rainfall patterns". USA Today (Tysons Corner, Virginia: Gannett). ISSN 0734-7456. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
As air ascends mountains, such as the Washington Cascades, it is forced to rise. The rising air cools, condenses, and drops rain on locations situated on the windward slopes, like Seattle. When the air descends the back side of the mountain toward Spokane, it is compressed, warming and drying it out. This sinking, dry air produces a rain shadow, or area in the lee of a mountain with less rain and cloudcover.
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