North America has a share in all of the world's major
climates. The continent ranges from the polar climate on the
islands in northern Canada to the tropics on the southern
tip of Florida (Fig. 11). The already large climate
opposites are reinforced by the fact that, in addition to
the geographical latitude, other factors influence the
climate in North America. These factors include
peculiarities of the surface shape of the continent and
ocean currents, which each cause characteristic climatic
phenomena: The large relief of North America is arranged
meridional. In contrast to Europe, there are no mountains
crossing the continent.
As a result, an unhindered exchange of cold polar air and
warm tropical air can take place between the Rocky Mountains
and Appalachian Mountains, which causes abrupt weather and
temperature changes in all seasons. In summer, moist, warm
tropical air penetrating far north often leads from the Gulf
of Mexico (Southers) to Canada, causing great humidity and
Conversely, the south is often haunted by cold air from
subarctic latitudes, which can cause serious damage to
Arctic cold air waves, the Northers, with violent blizzards
called blizzards often endanger the citrus plantations in
Florida and the Gulf Coast in winter. Or they paralyze road
traffic in big cities for days.
If the opposing air masses meet, violent turbulence
occurs at their interfaces. Then there are strong
thunderstorms with torrential rainfall that can put entire
regions under water.
In extreme cases, tornadoes also occur.
These are funnel-shaped, proboscis-like air vortices with a
diameter of only about 200 m, which, leaving at great speed,
leave a trail of devastation.
An average of 700 of these extra-tropical hurricanes occur
annually in a broad area of the United States between
Texas in the south and the Great Lakes in the north. This
area is therefore also known as the “tornado belt”.
Tropical cyclones also occur annually between June and
September. They arise above all in the warm Caribbean Sea
and devastate the coasts of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.
At 500 to 800 km,
these hurricanes are much larger in
diameter than the tornadoes. They are comparable to the
typhoons of East Asia and the tropical cyclones of South
Asia in their destructive power, wind speeds of up to more
than 200 km per hour, tidal waves and floods due to heavy
As in Europe, large areas of North America lie in the
western wind belt of the temperate latitudes. In contrast to
the Atlantic air, which penetrates far into the continent in
Europe, the humid Pacific air in North America soon
encounters the mountain barriers in the west.
The resulting congestion effect means that
only the western side of the mountains receives rich
rainfall. The basins and plateaus in the lee, on the other
hand, are very dry and have a semi-desert and desert-like
The steppe-like Great Plains in the rain shadow east of
the Rocky Mountains are also low in precipitation.
The Great Plains runs along 98 ° w. L. also the so-called
dry limit. This separates the drier western half of the
continent (apart from the Pacific coast) from the drier
eastern half, which is influenced by air masses from the
Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic.
Two very different ocean currents affect
the Pacific and Atlantic coastal areas in the north and in
the middle of the continent.
The Pacific coast of Alaska and Canada provides the Kuro
Schio drift, which is similar to the warm Gulf Stream and
comes from the Asian region of the Pacific.
In contrast, the Labrador Current leads cold water masses
from the Arctic Ocean far south. The effects are
particularly severe in winter:
The east coast of the USA is hit by snowstorms and extreme
cold periods, even in the central regions. For example, New
York lies on the latitude of Naples (40 ° N.B.), but the
city's January mean temperature is almost 10 °C lower.
The 16 overseas territories of Central America are:
For full list of countries in North and Central America,
- Guadeloupe (France)
- Martinique (France)
- Saint Barthélemy Island (France)
- Saint Martin Island (France)
- Bird Island (Venezuela)
- Santo André Archipelago (Colombia)
- Puerto Rico (United States)
- Navassa Island (United States)
- Virgin Islands (United States)
- Anguilla (United Kingdom)
- Cayman Islands (United Kingdom)
- Monserrat (United Kingdom)
- British Virgin Islands (United Kingdom)
- Turks and Caicos Islands (United Kingdom)
- Aruba (Netherlands)
- Netherlands Antilles (Netherlands)