Continental climate

Continental climates often have a significant annual variation in temperature (hot summers and cold winters). They tend to occur in the middle latitudes (40 to 55 north), where prevailing winds blow overland, and temperatures are not moderated by bodies of water such as oceans or seas. Continental climates occur mostly in the Northern Hemisphere, which has the kind of large landmasses required for this type of climate to develop. Most of northern and northeastern China, eastern and southeastern Europe, central and southeastern Canada, and the central and upper eastern United States have 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 cool temperatures, however summer weather is more stable than winter weather.

Humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification)
Areas of the world that feature a continental climate, according to Köppen

Spring and autumn

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 early March in the southern parts of this zone, or as late as May in the north. Annual precipitation in this zone is usually between 600 millimetres (24 in) and 1,200 millimetres (47 in), most of it in the form of snow during winter. It also has cold winters and warm summers.

Köppen climate classification

Most such areas fit Köppen classifications of Dfa, Dwa (cold winters, hot summers; "w" indicating very dry winters characteristic especially of China) or Dfb or Dwb (cold winters, warm summers, same distinction for winter dryness). Dry summer continental climates (Dsa and Dsb) exist in high altitude areas near Mediterranean climates. In some cases, the semi-arid climate classification of BSk can also be considered to be continental as long as it has cold winters. The definition of this climate regarding temperature is as follows: the mean temperature of the coldest month must be below −3 °C (26.6 °F) and there must be at least four months whose mean temperatures are at or above 10 °C (50 °F).


Continental climates exist where cold air masses infiltrate during the winter and warm air masses form in summer under conditions of high sun and long days. Places with continental climates are as a rule are either far from any moderating effect of oceans (examples: Omaha, Nebraska and Kazan, Russia) or are so situated that prevailing winds tend to head offshore (example: Boston, USA). 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.

Neighbouring climates

In the Koppen climate system, these climates grade off toward temperate climates equator-ward where winters are less severe and semi-arid climates where precipitation becomes inadequate for tall-grass prairies. In Europe these climates may grade off into oceanic climates in which the influence of cool oceanic air masses is more marked toward the west. The subarctic climate (Köppen: Dfc), with very cold, long and dry winters, but with at least one month above 10 °C (50 °F), might be considered a sub-type of the continental climate.

List of locations with a continental climate

North America

Rideau Canal Winter.jpeg
Ice skaters on the frozen Rideau Canal, looking south from Laurier Avenue Bridge in Ottawa

A statue of Ilanaaq, mascot of the 2010 Winter Olympics, located on Whistler Mountain

Edmonton River Valley

North Saskatchewan River valley in Edmonton

Forks Riverwalk

The Forks, with St. Boniface Cathedral in the background in Winnipeg

Skyline as viewed from Sam Smith

Toronto skyline taken from Colonel Samuel Smith Park in Etobicoke

Downtown view from SAIT

Downtown Calgary from Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) campus

Le Stade Olympique 3

Olympic Stadium in Montreal

Québec City shore

Quebec City shore


Halifax as seen from the Dartmouth waterfront

StJohns Newfoundland

Duckworth Street in St. John's

20090524 Buildings along Chicago River line the south border of the Near North Side and Streeterville and the north border of Chicago Loop, Lakeshore East and Illinois Center
The Chicago River, with the Near North Side and Streeterville on the right, the Chicago Loop, Lakeshore East, and Illinois Center on the left, and Trump Tower at the jog in the river in the center. This view is looking west from Lake Shore Drive's Outer Drive Bridge.
New Haven, Vermont town green in winter
Vermont winter scene
Rainbow Bridge Rainbow

Rainbow Bridge and the American Falls in Niagara Falls

Boone NC - aerial

Boone, NC as seen from Howard's Knob

USA Massachusetts Boston Foliage

Boston's skyline in the background, with fall foliage in the foreground


San Francisco Peaks from Flagstaff, AZ

South America

While there are no major cities in South America that fall in to the classification of a continental climate, there are some remote places that have this climate. Due to the influence of the Ocean, Patagonia, including cities such as Punta Arenas, Chile and Ushuaia, Argentina, have an average winter temperature above 0°C, and so are classified as an oceanic climate.


Oslo Aker Brygge 2005 June 19
Aker Brygge in Oslo
Andronikov Monastery 18
Spassky Cathedral in Moscow


View from Jbel Oukaïmeden in Morocco

Middle East

Palandoken Erzurum 2009
Palandöken in August 2009, as seen from downtown Erzurum.


Harbin Bank 01
Headquarter of Harbin Bank in Harbin
Odori Park Sapporo Snow Festival 2007
The snowy city of Sapporo


Charlotte Pass, winter view
Looking through Charlotte Pass towards the main range in winter.
Cabramurra Community Hall in winter

See also


  1. ^ "Continental Climate". Encyclopedia of the Atmospheric Environment. Manchester Metropolitan University. Archived from the original on 2009-04-27.

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