What Is a Continental Climate?

A continental climate is one that is characterized by hot summers and contrastingly cold winters. This type of climate is found along the eastern coasts of North America and Asia and extends inward towards the middle of these continents. A continental climate is the result of conflict zones between polar and tropical air currents.

Areas that receive a continental climate pattern tend to receive ample precipitation throughout the year. In the summer months, maritime tropical air pushes the polar air north. This creates a convection front which results in showers and sometimes tornadoes. In the winter, the precipitation usually comes in the form of snow due to the low atmospheric and surface temperatures. It is common for areas with continental climates to be covered in snow for several months in the winter. Many zones experience severe blizzards arising from polar air masses moving in the southern direction.

A continental climate is restricted to the Northern Hemisphere because the Southern Hemisphere latitudes that would receive the air currents that cause this type of climate are ocean-covered. Parts of Asia experience a specific sub-type of continental climate known as the monsoon variant. This climate is characterized by excessive heat and precipitation in the summer with contrastingly cold and dry winters.