Climate is the average weather conditions in a place over a long period of time—30 years or more. And as you probably already know, there are lots of different types of climates on Earth.

For example, hot regions are normally closest to the equator. The climate is hotter there because the Sun’s light is most directly overhead at the equator. And the North and South Poles are cold because the Sun’s light and heat are least direct there.

Using this information, in the late 1800s and early 1900s a German climate scientist named Wladimir Koppen divided the world’s climates into categories. His categories were based on the temperature, the amount of precipitation, and the times of year when precipitation occurs. The categories were also influenced by a region’s latitude—the imaginary lines used to measure our Earth from north to south from the equator.

Today, climate scientists split the Earth into approximately five main types of climates. They are:

A: Tropical. In this hot and humid zone, the average temperatures are greater than 64°F (18°C) year-round and there is more than 59 inches of precipitation each year.

B: Dry. These climate zones are so dry because moisture is rapidly evaporated from the air and there is very little precipitation.

C: Temperate. In this zone, there are typically warm and humid summers with thunderstorms and mild winters.

D. Continental. These regions have warm to cool summers and very cold winters. In the winter, this zone can experience snowstorms, strong winds, and very cold temperatures—sometimes falling below -22°F (-30°C)!

E: Polar. In the polar climate zones, it’s extremely cold. Even in summer, the temperatures here never go higher than 50°F (10°C)!

This is roughly where those climate zones appear on a globe:

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