Help the development of the site, sharing the article with friends!

Have you ever wondered what the characteristics of the polar zone? Surely you already know that the climate of the polar landscape is very cold, but do you know what temperatures are reached? Or how much does it rain and what type of vegetation and fauna inhabit places with this extreme climate?

From Ecologist Verde we want to tell you all this and much more. If you want to find out, keep reading this interesting article about the main characteristics of the polar climate, in which you will learn about what it is and where it is exactly, the types of polar climates that exist, why the polar climate is so cold, its characteristics related to temperatures and rainfall, what its winds are like and what the flora is like and the fauna that inhabits these regions of the planet.

What is the polar climate and where is it found?

We begin by giving an answer to what the polar climate is. The polar climate is one that is characterized by a intense cold and the absence of summer. The landscape is predominantly white due to the ice and snow.

For the polar climate, according to the Köppen climate classification, the average temperature of the warmest month is always less than 10 ºC. This temperature coincides with the limit of growth of the trees, therefore, in the polar climate we will never find arboreal vegetation.

Where is the polar climate found? It occurs in high latitudes, that is, in the polar regions or polar circles. In the Northern Hemisphere it is more common and is located above the parallel of 70º of latitude; On the other hand, in the southern hemisphere it begins to occur from the parallel of 55º. Thus, the arctic climate It is of the polar type and the climate in Antarctica so is it.

We can also find this climate in high altitude areas that give rise to similar conditions, such as in the Himalayas or in the Andes. We recommend you read this other article on How relief influences the weather.

Types of polar climate

There are many types of polar climate? Yes, there are two types of polar climates. When the average temperature of the warmest month is higher than 0 ºC (but less than 10 ºC as we said before) we have the tundra climate and when it is less than 0 ºC we have the climate of perpetual ice or also called glacial climate, which is, therefore, more extreme than the previous one. Here you can learn more about perpetual ice: climate, flora, fauna and images

The tundra climate occurs in the Arctic and Antarctic coastal strips. The influence of the sea is what causes that some month the 0 ºC is exceeded and there may be a thaw on the surface, but not at a greater depth, where the soil remains frozen (permanfrost).

The tundra climate is a climate of transition to other types of cold climates (although not as much as polar climates) as is the subpolar, boreal or sub arctic climate, where the typical vegetation is the taiga forest (with conifers).

Polar climate temperature characteristics

In addition to the thermal characteristics already commented that they are used for the classification of polar climates, there are some others. These are:

  • The temperature contrasts are strong between the time with the highest received solar radiation and the time with the least solar radiation.
  • The polar climate has the lowest annual average temperatures in the world.
  • Specifically, in glacial or perpetual ice climates, extraordinary temperatures of up to -88 ºC have been recorded (Vostok Antarctic Observatory).
  • In the glacial climate the coldest months are usually always below -50 ºC.

Characteristics of polar climate precipitation

We continue now talking about the characteristics of precipitation in the polar zones. The most notable are:

  • The precipitations of the polar climate are scarce. High pressures reign in the atmosphere, which prevents clouds from forming very often.
  • In the case of the tundra climate, rainfall is less than 250 mm, while in the glacial climate it does not exceed 8 mm.
  • Rainfall throughout the year decreases as we move away from the coastal areas, and can reach 0 mm.
  • The precipitations of the polar climate are mostly solid, since the low temperatures almost never allow the water to fall in a liquid state to the ground.

In a polar climate graph we can see these characteristics of the precipitations, as well as those of the temperatures. Here is an example of a polar climate graph from the Vostok Observatory in Antarctica.

Winds of polar climate

Another typical characteristic of the polar climate is the strong winds. They are winds sometimes hurricanes, very cold and dense that flow by gravity from the highest areas to the lowest areas.

Sometimes these winds can come loaded with snow, either because it is snowing at that time or because the wind is lifting the snow that has fallen moments before. Blizzards can reduce visibility to just a few meters.

Causes of polar climate

Why are the poles so cold? On the one hand, the main cause is low insolation or solar radiation, since, due to the tilt of the earth's axis, at the poles there are long nights of 6 months. On the other hand, as the Sun hardly rises from the horizon during the day, the effectiveness of the solar rays to raise the temperature is very limited.

Another cause is the elevated albedo of snow and ice. The albedo is the amount of light that is reflected into space and the white color reflects a lot of light, preventing the rise in temperatures. In colder areas there is the added bonus of high elevation. This is the case in the interior of Greenland (3,000 m) and in Antarctica (even higher).

Polar climate vegetation

Let's see now what type of vegetation is there in the polar climate. The flora of polar climate It will be different depending on the subtype of climate, that is, if it is a tundra climate or a glacial climate:

  • Glacial climate flora: the terrain is inhospitable and only during the less cold months can you find some lichens, mosses and algae.
  • Flora of the tundra climate: the typical vegetation has the same name. In the areas closest to the glacial climate we have the tundra with padded vegetation, followed by the herbaceous and shrubby tundra. Some trees may appear at the limits of the subpolar climate. In this other post you can learn much more about the Tundra: characteristics, flora and fauna.

Fauna of the polar climate

What are the animals that live in the polar climate? Like the vegetation, the polar climate fauna it is not very abundant either. Thus, we have:

  • Terrestrial mammals: almost all with white hair to be able to camouflage themselves in this environment. We have the arctic hare, arctic fox, polar bear, arctic wolf, reindeer, etc. Here we talk about Is the polar bear in danger of extinction?
  • Birds: most migrate in the colder months to milder climates.
  • Aquatic animals: there is more variety than in the previous groups. Some examples are: seals, penguins, fish, whales, and narwhals.

To further expand this information on what are the characteristics of the polar climate zoneWe recommend that you read this other article about the Polar Ecosystem: characteristics, fauna and flora and watch this video about the animals of the North and South Poles.

If you want to read more articles similar to Characteristics of the polar climate, we recommend that you enter our category of Other environment.

  • Cuadrat J. M., Pita M. F. (2022). Climatology. Madrid. Cátedra Editions.
  • Aguilera Arilla M. J., Borderías Uribeondo M. P., González Yanci M. P., Santos Preciado J. M. (2022). General Geography I. Physical Geography. Madrid. National University of Distance Education (UNED).
You will help the development of the site, sharing the page with your friends
This page in other languages: