Major Climates in Europe's Different Regions

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  • 0:00 What is Climate?
  • 0:45 Major Climates of Europe
  • 1:40 Western Europe
  • 3:35 Southeast Europe
  • 4:30 Northeast Europe
  • 5:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

After watching this video, you should be able to describe Europe's major climates, what features they have and where they are located. A short quiz will follow.

What is Climate?

Climate is not the same thing as weather. Hard as it might be to believe, this winter's unusual snow fall in the Northeast doesn't mean an end to climate change. Climate isn't local, and it isn't small.

Climate is the average or general weather conditions of an area, taken over a long period of time. To know about climate, you have to look over a large area and watch that area over many years. In the same way, climate change is about weather patterns occurring over multiple decades. One wet winter or one blistering summer tells you nothing about climate.

And climate varies hugely around the world. The United States has a totally different climate than Africa, which in turn has a totally different climate than Asia. Today, we're going to talk about the major climates of one of the most influential regions of the world: Europe.

Major Climates of Europe

Europe is a huge area of land. It might look small on a map, but map projections can be deceiving. Europe is 3.931 million square miles. Compare that to the 3.806 million square miles that make up the United States, and you'll see that it's a close comparison.

Since it's such a huge area, it's also similarly varied in climate: there are at least eight distinct climates in Europe. These climates include semiarid, Mediterranean, humid subtropical, marine, humid continental, subarctic, tundra and highland climates. Let's talk about where these climates can be found.

Western Europe

When most people in other parts of the world think of Europe, they imagine Western Europe: maybe a cafe in Paris, taking a bite of a croissant, or traveling around London on a double-decker bus or relaxing on a beach in Spain or Italy. This is where the tourists congregate, where the action is. Of course it's only really one small section of the huge continent of Europe.

But even in this section, you can still find a mix of climates: marine climates in the UK, Northern and Central France, Germany and other countries in the Northwest. Mediterranean climates in Spain, Southern France and Italy. Patches of semiarid climates in Spain and a large area of highland climate in the Alps mountain range, where Switzerland, France, Italy, Austria and Germany all meet. There's even a humid subtropical area that stretches from Northern Italy to Northern Greece.

What is it like to live in these climates? Well, marine climates tend to be in areas on the West coasts of continents that feature warm summers and cool winters (though mountains can still be cold) with a small range of yearly temperatures. Mediterranean climates have warm to hot dry summers and mild, wet winters. Semiarid climates, on the other hand, are particularly dry areas that can be either cold or hot with a lack of precipitation that means there isn't generally as much vegetation. In Europe, the examples of semiarid climates are hot. And then there are the highland climates, which describe mountains and other upland areas where conditions are cooler than nearby areas and are generally dry, though lower slopes can still be relatively wet. And last of all, humid subtropical climates are characterized by hot, humid summers and mild to cool winters.

Southeast Europe

Southeast Europe includes the Ukraine, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova and Greece. In this area, there are three main climates: humid continental, which is the climate that dominates most of Eastern Europe, as far north as Sweden and Finland; semiarid climate in Eastern Ukraine; and Mediterranean climate in Southern Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey. Well, Turkey has an unusually varied climate thanks to the presence of the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, landlocked areas and mountains all within its country's borders.

Some of those climates we've already talked about. But we haven't yet mentioned humid continental climates. In these areas, there are large seasonal temperature differences with warm to hot, humid summers and cold, wet winters. This happens because of their landlocked nature, without nearby bodies of water to moderate their temperatures.

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