Major Climates of Regions of the United States

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  • 0:01 What Is Climate?
  • 1:01 Major Climates of the…
  • 5:09 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 will be able to describe the major climates in regions of the United States, both in terms of temperature and precipitation. A short quiz will follow.

What is Climate?

When it's really hot, people love to say, 'Thanks, climate change!' And when it's really cold, people might say, 'So much for climate change!' But both these people don't understand what climate actually is. Climate and weather are not the same thing.

Climate is the average or general weather conditions of an area over a long period of time. A rainy day is an example of weather, but the average rainfall in a given month based on years of data is climate. To comment on the climate, you need to look at data from a long period of time. One cold winter, or one warm summer, doesn't tell you anything about climate.

Major Climates of the United States

The United States is a very large area, but it's also an unusually varied area. There are no fewer than nine regional climates in the United States. Let's go through each area of the United States and discuss their climates.

The Northwest coastal region includes Washington and Oregon, and is described as having a marine oceanic climate. This area has cool, wet winters, and cooler, dry-ish summers. The Pacific Ocean cools the air, especially along the coast, creating the cooler temperatures here. The large amount of rainfall is partly because of the number of mountains in the area; these mountains force air upwards, cooling it and causing any moisture they hold to fall as rain. This is also the reason that the mountains in the area have heavy snow.

The High Plains include Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. They have extremely cold and dry winters. What precipitation does fall is usually snow. The summer is warmer, but not much wetter. What rain does fall is usually in the form of thunderstorms. Part of the reason for this climate is that by the time the air reaches these high plains, it usually passes over many mountains, releasing a lot of its moisture. This climate is a cold, semi-arid climate.

The Midwest includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. Winters here can be very cold, but unlike the High Plains, these areas get quite a bit of precipitation, including snow in winter. This is because of moisture in the air from the Great Lakes and even from the Gulf of Mexico. Summers are warm, but feel worse than the temperatures would suggest because the moisture makes it humid. This warm air also produces thunderstorms and tornadoes. This climate could be described as a humid, continental climate.

The Mid-Atlantic region includes New England, Massachusetts, New York and other Northeast states, and is characterized by large winter storms originating from the Gulf of Mexico. The summers are hot and humid with lots of thunderstorms, though in the north (particularly New England) summers are only hot in relative terms. This is still a humid, continental climate, but with much more severe rainfall and storms in the winter.

The Southeast includes Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Their climate includes mild and relatively warm winters, and wet and hot summers, creating large numbers of thunderstorms. Things get cooler fast, though, and temperatures have already dropped a lot by October. This climate could be described as a humid, subtropical climate.

The climatic South includes Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas. Winters are mild and cool thanks to being near the cooling influence of the Gulf of Mexico, and summers are wet and hot, again with a lot of thunderstorms. This climate is similar to the Southeast, and could also be described as a humid, subtropical climate. The only difference is the winters, which are mild due to the proximity to the Gulf of Mexico.

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