The Climates Of Europe

West of Russia is Europe, a peninsula of Asia. The Gulf Stream originates near the Equator and, as it flows north, it warms the Atlantic coast of Europe, including Great Britain. Western Europe is warmer than comparable latitudes. Most of Western Europe has winter temperatures above freezing. As far north as Norway, the ocean is above 40 degrees F (4 degrees C) in winter, warmer than the ocean at comparable latitudes elsewhere. In January, Britain and France post temperatures above 40 degrees F (4 degrees C) , and Spain averages 50 (10 degrees C) .

Clouds and rain characterize the climate of northwestern Europe in winter. The region is among the cloudiest on Earth. As in Mediterranean lands, autumn is warmer than spring in Europe. Along the Atlantic coast, summer is cooler than it is in the interior of the continent. Portugal averages only 70 degrees F (21 degrees C) in July, and Norway only 50 (10 degrees C) . As rain falls in the winter, January is the wettest month in Western Europe and Britain and June the driest.

Central Europe, bereft of the warm Gulf Stream, is colder than Western Europe. Sveg, Sweden is as cold as minus 56 degrees F (13 degrees C) in winter. Rainfall is moderate, averaging 20 to 25 in. in much of Central Europe. The Po valley, having a continental rather than a Mediterranean climate, averages 30 in., and the wettest regions receive 40 to 50 in. Clouds hover in the sky much of the year. In winter, clouds drift into the valleys of the Alps. The mountain summits are clear and sunny.

In summer, the pattern reverses, with clouds above the summits and the valleys bathed in sunlight. South of the Alps stretches Mediterranean Europe. Its climate mirrors that of Mediterranean Africa. In some parts of the Mediterranean, temperatures average 50 degrees F (10 degrees C) in the coldest months. Temperatures year round are warmer in the south and east than near the Atlantic. Clear and sunny, summer is dry. Rainfall peaks in April and May and again in October. Rainfall tends to be heavy, with drizzle infrequent.

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