THE democratic PEoPLE'S Republic of Korea (DPRK) is located in the northern part of the Korean peninsula, which lies between 33 and 43 degrees N, and extends southward in to the northeastern Asian continent. North Korea is a transitional zone between the continental landmass of Asia and the island arc rimming the western Pacific Ocean. About 80 percent of North Korea is mountainous or hilly. Elevations are generally low, because the mountain ranges have been subject to long-term erosion, with relatively stable tectonic movement. A number of high altitude—2,625-3,281 ft. (800-1,000 m.)—plateaus are found in the northeastern and eastern part of North Korea. Mountain ranges drop abruptly toward the East Sea with little coastal plain. Some extensive lowlands are found mainly at the mouths of rivers flowing into the Yellow Sea.
Its peninsular configuration and mid-latitudinal location lead continental influence on the East-Asian monsoon climate of North Korea. North Korea's climate is regarded as a continental climate from a temperature standpoint, and a monsoon climate from a precipitation standpoint. The climate of North Korea is characterized by four distinct seasons. Summer is sultry because of the hot and humid airflow from the North Pacific high pressure, while winter is bitterly cold due to the influx of cold, dry northwesterly winds from Siberian high pressure. The average annual temperature is between 46-54 degrees F (8-12 degrees
C), with great regional and seasonal variations in temperature. The lowest annual average temperature and the greatest annual temperature range are found in the northeastern interior mountainous regions. Annual average precipitation is 41.5 in. (1,054 mm.). A noticeable seasonal variation in precipitation is, however, found because of the monsoon climate. About 60 percent of annual precipitation is concentrated from June to August. Winter is dry; less than 10 percent of annual precipitation occurs in winter. Heavy snowfalls are common in the northern, mountainous regions.
Few studies have been done on climate change in North Korea, because access to weather data and other climatic information is limited. A gradual increase in mean temperature is, however, reported over the last century and this warming trend is significant. Recent global warming is responsible for a substantial increase in the frequency and intensity of natural disasters, such as severe droughts in spring and regional heavy rainfalls in summer since the late 1980s. Human mortality from the growing numbers of natural disasters is substantial. In July 2006, Typhoon Bilis brought 19.6 in. (500 mm.) of rainfall in one day. Subsequent widespread devastation caused by floods and landslides caused thousands of deaths, and damage to both the natural and human environments. In North Korea, recent climate change and the ensuing reduction in total agricultural production have induced widespread starvation and prevalent epidemic diseases. Climate change models predict that global warming will increase temperatures in North Korea by 3.6-7.2 degrees F (2-4 degrees C), and precipitation 20-30 percent by 2050. Seasonal concentration of precipitation will be even more intensified; there will be a greater increase in winter precipitation, and severe spring and early summer drought.
SEE ALSo: Diseases; Floods; Monsoons.
BIBLIoGRAPHY. William R. Cline, Global Warming and Agriculture: Impact Estimates by Country (Peterson Institute, 2007); Mark Edward Harris and Bruce Cumings, Inside North Korea (Chronicle Books, 2007); Kirill Y. Kondratyev, et. al., Global Environmental Change (Springer, 2002); J. Timmons Roberts, A Climate of Injustice (Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 2006)
Jongnam Choi Western Illinois University
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