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Global climate (full)

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In this video, Heather Reid OBE explains the characteristics of the six different global climate zones. The video begins with an overview of the climate zones followed by a brief tour of the world in which the features of each zone are explained in more detail. The video concludes by reflecting on the impact climate change will have on global climate. This video has also been made available in separate sections to give teachers more flexibility of use (see related videos)

Relevant questions

  • How many different climate zones are there in the world?

  • What are the characteristics of each climate zone?

  • How will climate change affect global climates?


Heather Reid OBE

The world is normally divided into six climate zones; these zones depend on several factors.  The first main influence is temperature, if a country lies near the equator it tends to be hot, but if it’s near the poles it’s normally colder.  A country can also have a cold climate if it’s very mountainous with most of its land sitting well above sea level.  Wind direction can also influence climate, if winds are being blown from a hot area they will raise temperatures the opposite is also true.  If winds have been blown from cold areas they will lower temperatures.

Closeness to the sea is also important in deciding a country’s climate, that’s because the sea cannot warm up or cool down as much as land.  So, coastal areas don’t really experience extremes in temperature but areas and countries well away from the influences of the sea can get very hot and very cold. 

Not every part of the world has the same seasons either, we have four seasons here in Scotland summer, winter, autumn and spring.  However, some countries only have two seasons, a wet season and a dry season, whilst countries on the equator can have the same temperature and weather all the year around. 

There are six different climate zones.  These are:- temperate, where winters are cold and summers are mild; polar, where it’s very cold and dry all year around; arid, where it stays dry and hot; tropical, where it stays hot and wet all of the year; Mediterranean, where the winters are mild and the summers hot and dry; mountainous, where it stays very cold throughout the year.

Why don’t you join me on a quick tour of the globe to find out more about climate zones around the world? Come on it shouldn’t take long.

Temperate Zone

The first climate zone we’re visiting is temperate.  Temperate climates don’t have extremes of temperature or rainfall; it’s neither too warm or too cold, too wet or too dry.  Some would say a temperate climate is just about ideal but it can be quite changeable, one day it can be raining the next it may be sunny, it’s also very difficult to forecast and guess what, Scotland’s weather is temperate.  But let’s go and find ourselves another climate zone.

Polar Zone

It’s suddenly got much colder and that’s because we’re in a polar climate.  Polar climates stay very cold and dry throughout the year.  They include the tundra and ice cap climates where temperatures stay below freezing all the time.  Parts of Canada, Russia, Greenland, Alaska and the Antarctic all have polar climates.  The lowest temperature ever recorded was at Vostok in the Antarctic where a bone-chilling -88˚ Celsius was once measured, now that’s super cold so let’s keep moving.

Arid Zone

That’s more like it, but I wish I had brought my sunglasses, that’s because we’re in an arid climate and arid climates are normally hot and also very dry so they have a severe lack of water.  Deserts fall into this category, so the Sahara Desert along with Saudi Arabia and large parts of Iran and Iraq all have arid climates.  You do occasionally get some cactus growing but that’s enough of the sunshine for now. 

Tropical Zone

Still feels quite warm to me but don’t we get a great view from up here?  Now countries close to the equator where the weather is hot and humid have a tropical climate.  In tropical climates during the wet season it can rain very heavily almost every day but at the same time temperatures stay above 25˚ Celsius even in the winter.  Tropical climates include countries with a monsoon season like India and Sri Lanka and also countries with tropical rainforests like Brazil, parts of Africa and Indonesia. 

Sometimes the main climate zones are actually broken down into sub-climate zones, so for instance within the tropical climate zone we can also have savannah, rainforest and monsoon climate zones.

I’m really enjoying this trip, two more zones to go.

Mediterranean Zone

Now this is what I call ideal holiday weather.  A Mediterranean climate produces hot, dry summers and cooler, wetter winters.  This type of climate obviously occurs in regions around the Mediterranean Sea like Italy, Spain and Greece but you can also get a Mediterranean-style climate in coastal parts of California, South Africa and southern parts of Australia.  The hot and dry summers and normally frost-free winters make this climate not only ideal for holidays but also for the growing of citrus fruits, but enough about holidays, it’s time to get some exercise.

Mountainous Zones

I was told there was going to be a chair lift for this one!  Look where we are, a mountain climate usually refers to countries with higher lands.  Consequently the climate is normally cold with occasional snow.  Alpine climates consisting of glaciers, high level pasture land and rare plant life are also included in this climate zone.  Other famous mountain climates around the world include the Rocky Mountains, the Andes, the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau.  But that’s enough globe-trotting for one day, let’s talk about how these climate zones might change in the future.

Climate Change

Scientists believe that the world’s climate is changing as a result of the huge quantities of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that we're pumping into the earth’s atmosphere.  This has lead to increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather, so as the earth heats up in the years ahead we may find that the climate in each of these zones could change too.  For instance the polar regions may experience milder weather causing the ice caps and permafrost to melt. 

Some scientists also believe that climate change may make the Amazon region much drier resulting in the large scale destruction of tropical rainforest.  Only time will tell how dramatic these changes are likely to be but climate change is happening and our understanding of climate around the world may have to change too.

[End of Recording]

Referring Articles

  • World climates
  • Global climate: Arid
  • Global climate: Introduction
  • Global climate: Mediterranean
  • Global climate: Mountainous
  • Global climate: Climate change
  • Global climate: Temperate
  • Global climate: Polar
  • Global climate: World tour
  • Global climate: Tropical

Related Videos

  1. Global climate: World tour

    Heather Reid OBE examines the six global climate zones.

  2. Global climate: Mediterranean

    Heather Reid explores the characteristics of the Mediterranean climate zone.

  3. Global climate: Polar

    Explore the characteristics of the polar climate zone.

  4. Global climate: Temperate

    Find out more about the temperate climate zone with Heather Reid.

  5. Global climate: Arid

    Find out more about arid climate zone with Heather Reid.

  6. Global climate: Mountainous

    Investigate the characteristics of the mountainous climate zone.

  7. Global climate: Tropical

    Discover more about the tropical climate zone.

  8. Global climate: Introduction

    Watch a brief introduction to the six global climate zones.