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Asia's Climate

Where Different Climates Ain't Any Strange

       Asia has every type of climate found in the world. The major factors that influence Asia's climate pattern are its huge land area, its location between the tropics and the arctic, and its great range in elevations from sea level to high plateaus and mountains. The dominant climatic pattern over most of the inhabited part of Asia is the monsoon, the seasonal shift in wind patterns between winter and summer. Most of Asia's people live in what is sometimes called "monsoon Asia". This includes the sub-regions of East, Southeast, and South Asia. During winter, cold, dry air moves southward out of the Mongolian Plateau, giving northern Asia little precipitation in winter. In summer the pattern reverses, with warm, moist air moving northward from the tropics. Rainfall is heaviest at this time, especially in the coastal band of the three sub-regions. By the time the air masses reach farther north, most of the moisture is gone. Precipitation is therefore heaviest in southern and eastern Asia where most of the people live.

       To the north, in Siberia, the climate is cold and dry. The extreme northern fringe, as well as much of the Tibetan-Qinghai Plateau, has a tundra climate, sometimes also called a cold desert because the land is dry like a desert but with cold temperatures. Most of the remainder of Siberia has a sub-arctic climate. In this area stands a vast evergreen forest known as the taiga. There, some of the world's coldest temperatures have been recorded.

       Steppe and desert climates dominate the regions just south of the sub-arctic; they affect most of north and west China, Russia, and virtually all of Southwest Asia and western South Asia. These are regions of low precipitation and hot summers. Because of the dryness and lack of sources of fresh water, large parts of the steppe and desert regions are uninhabited.

       Parts of northern China, plus North and South Korea and part of Japan, have a continental warm summer climate. Winters are fairly cold, but summers are warm and humid, and thus the land is well-suited for agriculture and human settlement. To the south a large humid subtropical climate zone prevails. It stretches from southern Japan through all of southern China and parts of northern Southeast Asia and South Asia. Because of the mild climate of this region, it is one of the most densely populated parts of Asia and the world. Nearly 1 billion people live in this hospitable climate zone of Asia.

       Farther south are the tropical humid climate zones of South and Southeast Asia. They have high year-round temperatures and heavy precipitation, which have given rise to some of the world's densest tropical rain forests. On the mainland, where the winter monsoon effect is felt, precipitation is concentrated in summer and there is a winter dry season, producing a savanna climate. Particularly in a high population density region such as India, the timely arrival of the summer monsoon is critical to millions of people who depend on the rains for agriculture.