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Major Climates of East Asia

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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.

There are several major climates present across East Asia, each carrying different weather patterns. Examine the distribution of climates in Japan, the Koreas, and Eastern China, and recognize the impact of the mountains in China and Tibet. Updated: 11/07/2021

What is Climate?

Climate isn't about the tiny. Climate is huge. Not just in importance but in scale. Climate is the average or general weather conditions of a large area, taken over a long period of time. A large scale in area and a large scale in time. Having a particularly cold winter, for example, tells you absolutely nothing about climate change. To look at climate, you need many years of data.

Climate varies a lot from location to location. And the climate of Asia is like a Jackson Pollock painting. Just take a look at this climate map:

Climate map of Asia
climate map

On this full-detail map, there are around 25 different types of climate - more than any other continent on Earth.

However, we can simplify this a bit. A lot of the climates are variations on a theme, and some of them are found in such small areas that it hardly seems worth talking about. On a simplified, more general map, you can narrow it down to ten main climates in Asia as a whole and five climate types in East Asia: the areas usually considered to include China, Japan, North Korea and South Korea. So, let's look at each part of East Asia in turn and discuss the climates found there.

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  • 0:00 What Is Climate?
  • 1:19 Japan & the Koreas
  • 2:27 Eastern China
  • 3:18 The Mountains of China & Tibet
  • 4:04 Lesson Summary
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Japan & the Koreas

Japan and the Koreas have similar climate patterns. They are both mostly surrounded by water (Japan completely) and contain two main climates: humid continental in the north and humid subtropical in the south. In the case of Japan, half the country is humid subtropical. Only the very southern part of South Korea has this climate. The two main factors that create this climate are the location close to the main continental landmass of Asia and the major oceanic currents that pass through the area.

What does that mean? Well, humid subtropical climates are characterized by hot, humid summers and mild to cool winters. Humid continental climates, on the other hand, have large seasonal temperature differences, with warm to hot, humid summers and cold, wet winters. Basically, the climates are similar, but humid continental isn't as hot - in fact, winters can be downright cold in some places, especially in elevated, more mountainous areas of Japan. In general, Japan and the Koreas are wet areas with lots of rainfall.

Eastern China

Eastern China is home to three main climates: A mix of semi-arid and humid continental climates in the north, and humid subtropical climate in the south. In the north, generally the east-most areas are most likely to be humid continental, even areas along the coasts, making the very name a bit of a misnomer. As you move west, you find semi-arid conditions along the borders with Mongolia.

As mentioned previously, humid subtropical climates have hot, humid summers and mild to cool winters. And humid continental climates have large seasonal temperature differences with warm to hot, humid summers and cold, wet winters. Semiarid conditions are defined by being very dry and can be either cold or hot but not dry enough to meet the criteria for a desert.

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