The climates of China are similar, in their range and distribution, to those of the continental United States; temperate climates prevail, with desert and semi-arid regions in the western interior and a small area of tropical climate in the extreme south-east. China’s climates, however, tend to be pronouncedly continental and thus extreme, and regional contrasts are generally great.
The Asian monsoon winds exert the primary control on China’s climate. In winter, cold dry winds blow out of the high-pressure system of central Siberia, bringing low temperatures to all regions north of the Yangzi River and drought to most of the country. In summer, warm moist air flows inland from the Pacific Ocean, producing rainfall in the form of cyclonic storms. Amounts of precipitation decline rapidly with distance from the sea and on leeward sides of mountains. The remote basins of the north-west receive little precipitation. Summer temperatures are remarkably uniform throughout most of the country, but extreme temperature differences between north and south characterize the winters.
South-eastern China, from the Yangzi Valley southward, has a subtropical climate with a distinctly tropical climate in the extreme south. Summer temperatures in this region average 26° C (79° F). Average winter temperatures decline from 17.8° C (64° F) in the tropical south to about 3.9° C (39° F) along the Yangzi River. An average of eight typhoons a year, mainly between July and November, bring high winds and heavy rains to the coastal areas.
The mountainous plateaux and basins to the south-west also have subtropical climates, with considerable local variation. As a result of higher elevations, summers are cooler, and as a consequence of protection from northerly winds, winters are mild. The Sichuan Basin, which has an 11-month growing season, is noted for high humidity and cloudiness. Rainfall, especially abundant in summer, exceeds 990 mm (39 in) annually in nearly all parts of southern China. North China, which has no mountain ranges to form a protective barrier against the flow of air from Siberia, experiences a cold, dry winter. January temperatures range from 3.9° C (39° F) in the extreme south to about -10° C (14° F) north of Beijing and in the higher elevations to the west. July temperatures generally exceed 26.1° C (79° F) and, in the North China Plain, approach 30° C (86° F).
Almost all the annual rainfall occurs in summer. Annual precipitation totals are less than 760 mm (30 in) and decrease to the north-west, which has a drier, steppe climate. Year-to-year variability of precipitation in these areas is great; this factor, combined with the possibility of dust storms or hailstorms, makes agriculture precarious. Fog occurs on more than 40 days a year in the east and on more than 80 days along the coast.
The climate of Dongbei is similar to, but colder than, that of North China. January temperatures average -17.8° C (0° F) over much of the Dongbei Pingyuan, and July temperatures generally exceed 22.2° C (72° F). Rainfall, concentrated in summer, averages between about 510 and 760 mm (20 and 30 in) in the east but declines to about 300 mm (12 in) west of the Greater Khingan Range.
Desert and steppe climates prevail in the Mongolian Borderlands and the north-west. January temperatures average below -10° C (14° F) everywhere except in the Tarim Basin. July temperatures generally exceed 20° C (68° F). Annual rainfall totals less than 250 mm (10 in), and most of the area receives less than 100 mm (4 in). Because of its high elevation, the Tibetan Plateau has an arctic climate; July temperatures remain below 15° C (59° F). The air is clear and dry throughout the year with annual precipitation totals of less than 100 mm (4 in) everywhere except in the extreme south-east. "China" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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