Climatology for world builders

posted: 4405 days ago, on Monday, 2005 Aug 01 at 16:45
tags: world building, Dungeons and Dragons.


When I started to build the world for my latest (and last!) campaign setting, I soon realized that understanding its geography and climate would give my world a greater sense of "being right". After consulting various sources, I settled on the climate classification scheme developed by the German meteorologist, climatologist and botanist Wladimir Köppen. There are many resources on his scheme to be found on the internet, at Wikipedia, for example and elsewhere; what I present here is what I have found useful for worldbuilding specifically.

Köppen's scheme uses five basic types of climate:

Taking into account temperature and precipitation, some 23 more-precise categories can be devised, as set out in Table 1 (following) and Figure 1 (below):

Table 1. Summary of Köppen's climate system

Atropical (coldest 18°C)
Af: moistall months hot and moist.
  Am: monsoonall months hot; some months excessively moist, which compensates for 1 - 3 dry months.
  Aw: winter dry periodall months hot; summer rains and winter droughts.
Bno temperature limitationBS: steppeBSh: hot and semi-arid (hot steppe)
BSk: cold winters; semiarid (cool or cold steppe)
  BW: desertBWh: hot and arid (hot desert)
BWk: cold winters; arid (cool or cold steppe)
Cmesothermal (-3°C to 18°C)Cf: moist; precipitation distributed throughout yearCfa: hot summers, mild winters; all months moist
Cfb: warm summers, mild winters; all months moist
Cfc: cool summers, mild winters; all months moist
  Cw: winter dry periodCwa: hot moist summers; mild dry winters
Cwb: warm moist summers; mild dry winters
  Cs: summer dry periodCsa: mild moist winters; hot dry summers
Csb: mild moist winters; warm dry summers
Dmicrothermal ( < -3°C to 18°C)Df: moist; precipitation distributed throughout yearDfa: cold winters, hot summers; all months moist
Dfb: cold winters, warm summers; all months moist
Dfc: cold winters; short cool summers; all months moist
Dfd: severe winters; short cool summers; all months moist
  Dw: winter dry periodDwa: cold dry winters; hot moist summers
Dwb: cold dry winters; warm moist summers
Dwc: cold, dry winters; short, cool and moist summers
Dwd: severe dry winters; short cool and moist summers
Earctic  (warmest < 10°C)polar or arctic climate: very short and cool growing season (tundra climate) or all months below freezing (icecap or perpetual frost climate)

In addition to the five basic climate types he devised, later scholars added an extra one to represent mountains. This was done because highlands or mountains – topographical features – can occur in any climatic region and have unique climate patterns.

Taking my cue from this, I have added a further five "zones", so that we now have: Mountains, Salt marshes, Rocky shore beach, Sandy (barrier) beach, Coral reef & Ocean sources. These additions allow the Köppen system to be nicely tied into the simplified "terrain types" encountered in AD&D and other systems. I use the following terrain table (Table 2), with Table 2a (below) listing real-world examples (from Papadakis 1966).

Table 2. Terrain and climate combined – ideal for D&D!

Terrain categoryin cimate zoneresults in Terrain Type:
roughAfjungle (rough+tropical)
 BWrocky desert (rough+desert)
 BSkaroo (rough+scrubland)
 Cfmoors (rough +humid grassland)
plainsAwsavannah (arid/humid grassland with dispersed trees)
 BSscrubland (dry scrub brush)
 BSarid grassland (dry short yellowish grass)
 Cchaparral (mediterranean, wet fynbos, heath)
 Chumid grassland (wet long grass)
 Dtundra (ground-hugging mosses)
desertBWhot desert (dry sand dunes)
 Ecold desert (polar, high mountains, ice)
wetlandsAmarsh (wetlands, reeds with semi-open water)
 Cswamp (drowning forest, mangroves)
forestAtropical (forest + undergrowth)
 Cdeciduous (england forest)
 Dconiferous (pine trees, taiga)
mountain, low (0-2km)anysame terrain type as surrounding area (if wetlands, then mountain is wasteland)
mountain, med. (2-4km)A, B, Ctreat as D
 Dtreat as E
mountain, high+ (4+ km)anytreat as E

Table 2a. Real world examples of climate and terrain types

ClimateTerrainReal-world examples
Af, Amtropical rain forestCongo; Gold Coast; Madagascar; India; Ceylon; Burma, Siam, Malaysia; Cambodia; Vietnam; Hainan; Insular Pacific; Australian Cairns Area (N.E.); Brazilian S.E. Coast; Amazon Basin; Ecuadorian & Colombian W. Coast, C. American E. Coast; Dominican Republic & Antilles.
Awtropical savannahC. Africa; Sudan; Madagascar; India; Ceylon; S.E. Asia (Thailand, Cambodia); Bali & Lesser Sundas; Australia; Brazil; Venezuela; S. W. Mexico and Veracruz; Yucatan; Caribbean.
BShtropical steppeBarotseland; Sudan; Moroccan; S. W. Arabia; Iran – Afghanistan – Pakistan; India; Australia; Brazil – Recife Area; Venezuela – Caracas Area; Central & Northern Mexican and Southern U.S. Plains.
BSkmiddle latitude steppeAnatolia; Central Asian; Andean; Williston.
BWdesertPatagonian desert.
BWhtropical desertKalahari; Somali – Kenya; Sahara; Arabia; Dashte Kavir (Iran); Baluchistan – Indus; C. Australia; Southwest U.S.; Great Basin.
BWkmid latitude desertGobi Desert; Aral Sea Deserts.
BWncoastal desertS.W. Africa, S. American W. Coast.
Cafcontinental forestDurban; North Italy; Hungary; Yangtzi; Taiwan; S. Korea; S. Japan; Taiwan; S.E. Australian Coast; Argentina; S.E. U.S.
Cawsummer rain winter droughtNorth India – Burma; N.E. coast of Australia.
Cbmoderate marine forestS. Africa – Port Elizabeth (Cbf); N.W. Europe (incl. England & Ireland); S.E. Australia; Tasmania; New Zealand; S. Chile; Parana (Sao Paolo).
CbwbushveldTransvaal/Mpumalanga (South Africa).
CsmediterraneanCape Town; Mediterranean; S. Australia; Chile N. Coast; California.
Dafhumid warm continentalRomania; N. Japan; N. China (Huan River); U.S. Midlands.
Dawhumid – warm summer continentalN. China (Liao River).
Dbfhumid cool continentalRussia; Hokkaido; Great Lakes.
Dcfsubarctic taiga (humid all year)Scandinavia – N. Russia; Kamchatka; Canada.
Dcfequatorial highlandsE. Africa; Ethiopia; Borneo; New Guinea; N. Andes; C. America; Meso-America.
Dcftemperate highlandsMongolia; Alps; Caucasus; S. Andes; Rockies.

Terrain types from the air

Sandstone moor lands and escarpments. 230m from the edge of the plateau to the height of the lake surface.

Gorge - dry valleys - carboniferous limestone moor lands. Looking northeast up the gorge with limestone plateaus on either side. This upland is conspicuously dry - the result of the permeable nature of limestone - and is covered with pasture. The right-hand side consists of buttresses having grass-covered ledges. The left side is gentler grass or scree slopes and has trees and bushes (only occasional rock buttresses). There is no stream in the gorge. Numerous caves (developed by solution along joints in the limestone) occur in the lower part. The origin of such a gorge is not clear - probably cut by a former river. Dry valleys are common in most limestone areas.

Coast-lines - chalk cliffs and stacks.

Gully erosion and bad lands. The hill slopes have been dissected into a maze of ravines and gullies and ridges. In semi-arid lands (where protective vegetation is scant the surface is dry and the limited rainfall is torrential and short-lived in character) the surface may be savagely eroded. Loose material resulting from rock disintegration through temperature change is swept down the slopes. Slight depressions are enlarged by the concentrated runoff into gullies and ravines separated by sharp ridges. Very hard to traverse. This type of relief is common in most semi-arid lands and can be found in many hilly areas along the borders of the deserts.

Coast-lines - tidal salt-marshes and mud-flats. Extensive salt-marshes and mud-flats are uncovered at low tide revealing a maze of vein-like creeks and channels. The development of the mud-flats and marshes is due to the accumulation of fine silts by the tides in sheltered areas. Vegetation gradually spreads and helps the process of accretion. Sea aster and cord grass trap silt forming hummocks of vegetation. Thus continuous areas are built up with water flow in channels eventually allowing other plants to establish.

Gorge (Grand Canyon). Overall width 4-18 miles between the outer rims. In places 6000ft deep. The gorge is cut through horizontally bedded rocks forming cliffs and buttresses separated by more gentle scree slopes and terraces. Gorges are formed readily in arid or semi-arid climates where permanent rivers (deriving their volume mainly from rainfall and snowmelt on mountains beyond the desert) can maintain their flow and vertical erosive power.

Coast-lines - fjords

Desert lands - wadis and rock ridges. The landscape consists of dissected masses of level-bedded sandstone with harsh serrated outlines rising from a swathing mantle of angular rock-wastes and sheets of nearly level sand. The tracks of short-lived torrents can be distinguished along the floors of the ravines (wadis) by the faint line of scrub-vegetation. A striking feature of rock-deserts is a wadi - a valley with steep-sided craggy walls rising abruptly from its gravel or sand-strewn floor. Numerous lateral gorges open into the floor of the main wadi - these are due to torrent erosion (which though infrequent is potent).

Glacial ribbon-lake

Desert lands - rock remnants and sand-seas. A view of a vast area of sand and gravel which is seamed and furrowed by dry torrent-channels and diversified by occasional gaunt rock-masses projecting from the scree and sand.

Cirque lake

Desert lands - pediment and depression. Consists of coarse sand and pebbles in which grow stunted thorny shrubs. In places salt encrusts the surface and after the infrequent rains the depression may be occupied by a salt-swamp or even a short-lived lake. In the middle ground is the pediment (a gently sloping rock-surface which is either bare or with a thin veneer of debris). The upper edge runs abruptly into the foot of a steep rock face cut into by deep gullies.

Infilled lake hollows.

But wait, there's more! As Köppen discussed, the climate of a region influences the weather, terrain, and fauna & flaura. Also, man's response to the climate can be determined. Below is a lengthy summary of each of the climate types from Table 1 as it applies to our world (see also Table 2a above).

A: The humid tropical climates

Af: The rainy tropics

a.k.a. "rainy tropical, tropical rain forest, wet tropical, wet equatorial climate"
example: interior portion of the Amazon river drainage basin.

Typical day in the rain forest: a typical morning dawns relatively clear, cool and pleasant. Before long, by 10:00, cumulus clouds begin to gather in the east, and lazily float westward, obscuring the bright sun from time to time. By noon the temperature has risen by 16 degrees, the humidity has become noticeable and thunderheads may be seen. Sometime between noon and two or three, the heat, coupled with high humidity, becomes almost unbearable; almost all work ceases, and even animals refuse to move unnecessarily. It is incredibly still - the stillness before the storm. Soon the sun is darkened, lightning flashes and thunder rolls; almost immediately heavy rain falls. Frequently windy or even squally conditions accompany the downpour that may last an hour or two. As quickly as it began, the rain stops, the sky becomes clearer, the humidity goes down somewhat, the temperature drops. And life begins to move again. Of course, there may be another shower before nightfall, or there may be one during the early hours of the morning (3-5), but usually the showers occur during the greatest heat of the day. During the less rainy season there may be some days without precipitation.

Occasionally, Af areas are visited by cyclones.

Few winds in the Af region; but sea breezes are the rule in marine and littoral locations and are extremely welcome; not only do they temper the midday conditions but also help to make the coastal areas in general much more liveable than the interiors. Effective up to 40 miles inland.

Weather: a warm, wet, humid land, with high temperatures; showers drench the land almost daily. The imprint of the greater races is negligible. To many, these lands conjure visions of mysterious jungles peopled by savages - lands of pleasant climate where nature is so lavish in her gifts that every need is easily supplied. In reality, forests dominate the vegetation, climate is monotonous and nature in general presents many problems. These lands still remain lands of mystery; the veil; is only partially lifted.

Because of the climate, the year is not divided into "summer" and "winter" - there may be a wet season (rain every day) and a less wet season (lighter showers; a few days are rainless), but throughout the year a uniformly warm temperature prevails.

Winds are complex; squalls alternate with light variable winds and periods of dead calm. Clear days are rare, and billowy cumulus clouds have usually formed in the sky by noon. Thunderstorms are frequent (75-150 / year) and heavy showers a common occurrence. Humidity is constantly high; each day is like the next - a year of continuous summer. Temperature is not excessive but the air is constantly charged with water vapour. The heat and high humidity produce a high sensible temperature that creates considerable body discomfort.

Frost is unknown and there is no cessation of growth; harvest can occur at any time of the year!

Terrain: rapid chemical weathering; weathered materials obscures bedrock, and heavy mantle of vegetation tends to retain this mass and gives a rounded form to the land surface. Numerous perennial streams; massive rivers. Extensive swamps *only* on the low-lying positions on flood plains, deltas and coastal fringes.

Island or coastal regions have lower average temperature than inland, and are favoured by a cooling sea breeze that tempers the heat of the day, causing these areas to be much more attractive for living than the interiors. Rainfall early in evening or in the night.

Vegetation: worlds most luxuriant forest. Broadleaf evergreen three-tier: 50ft, 90 ft, 140 ft high.

Tropical rain forest: 25foot, 60 foot, 100 foot leafless very tall thin trunks, forking thickly near the top into branches and leaves.

Trees have choking vines, lianas and epiphytes; shut out much of sunlight; only smaller plants and bushes on forest floor, so travel by foot is readily done. However, if sunlight does penetrate to the ground, real jungle appears (edges of rivers, streams, coastal areas, steep slopes, where forest clearings by humanoids have been made). Throughout the forest, there are smaller stands of impenetrable jungle (tangle of low trees, bushes, shrubs, aerial roots, woody climbers, strangling vines). Because the water ways were the chief means of penetration, the heavy jungle growth overhanging these streams erroneously gave the impression that vast areas consisted for nothing but jungle. Heavy stands of mangroves fringe mud flats, lagoons, and marshes, and cluster around river mouths entering salt water. Coastlines are frequently rimmed with stately coconut palms.

Although trees are large and usually hard, they are widely scattered, and good and accessible stands of a single variety are considered rare. Other plant types include fungi, bromeliad (plant), climbing monster palm.

Animals: brilliantly coloured bird, insects. Few grazing and carnivorous types. Near edge of forest: rhino, elephant, anteater, wart hog, okapi, tapir, wild pig, antelope. Waters: abundant fish, crocs, alligators, hippos. Water fowl abound. Ground: infested with crawling life - insects (bugs, ants, termites), rodents, reptiles, snakes. Clouds of brilliant butterflies, endless termites, mosquitoes, spiders, ferocious driver ants, crickets, gnats. Many are stinging, blood-sucking and disease carrying. Reptiles, camouflaged by colour and resembling lianas, vary from deadly vipers to 30-foot anacondas. Anteaters. Trees: a great variety of animals; trees provide fruit, nuts, sap, bark and leaves to monkeys, sloths, bats. Also: ants, katydid, green tree snake, tree frog,woolly opossum, tapir, blue and gold macaw, harpy eagle, slaty-tailed trogon (bird), toucan, squirrel monkeys, ocelot.

Occupations: low population density (isolation; disease; animal life; poor soil = not much agriculture) primitive life of hunting, fishing, collecting items from the forest, bartering, farming on a migratory basis.

"Jungle nomads:" hunter-gatherers live on wild game and fruit, roots, nuts; bands of abt. 30 roam an area abt. 20 sq miles, taking roots, stalks, leaves, fruit, larvae; some fishing; hunt small game with blowguns, bows & poisoned arrows.

Majority of inhabitants farm - use agriculture to supplement hunt/gathering.

1: "migratory agriculture": small islands are partially cleared; this slash is then burned and crops are planted among the stumps and charred logs by dropping seeds into poked holes. Crops left unattended until harvest. Main staple is plantain, a banana-like plant - boiled or fried like potatoes, ground as flour, cloth woven from fibery leaves. (also: cassava, yams, corn, vegs.) Few animals kept; dogs, chickens and ducks; rarely dozen or so sheep or goats (usually reserved for payment of debt, purchase of wives, sacrifice). After 2 - 3 years, the clearing is exhausted, or vegetation grows back; a new settlement is make a short distance away. The village is usually located on a stream (water, fish, transport) or within short distance of a water supply. Cluster of houses, natural materials - framework of poles support a thatch roof, walls are of woven grass, palm fronds, or bark. Sometimes, houses are on poles. Simple furnishings - iron kettle, other of wood, coconut shells, sea shells, bamboo.

2: "sedentary cultivation" more advanced method, and the society practising it is more stable; similar crops, but also perennials such as coconuts and plantain.

Modern development: plantation agriculture. Close to the sea (islands are popular); bonus if along major sea-trade routes.

Resources: bananas, wild rubber, cacao, spices, cassava, vanilla, papayas, cabinet wood

Human factors: poor health, lack of energy, lack of initiative, malnutrition, disease. The following can be done: (1) consistent exercise to aid better physical condition; (2) frequent visits to the highlands (3) plenty of salt to replace that lost (4) additional vitamins to compensate for that missing in the natural diet (5) loose-fitting and light-coloured clothing combats heat and humidity (6) shaded and well-ventilated houses (7) sanitation, safe water, adequate sewage minimises the dangers of disease.

Slight resource development; primitive conditions; wants and needs are few. Work is performed by hand, dwellings are simple structures, clothing satisfied minimum requirements, transportation by foot or crude river craft. Year-round harvest removes the necessity for storing food, curbs initiative for producing surplus.

Am: The tropical monsoon

(same as Af)

Vegetation: as in (Af); but in the dry months, rice is produced.

Animals: as Af; more poisonous snakes, and more monkeys. Tigers are unique here.

Aw: Wet and dry tropics

a.k.a. savannah

Definite dry season of variable length (3-5 months).

The rainy period is much like that of the Af regions; ushered in with violent thunderstorms and squalls. Eventually, however, long-continued and more general rains of the weak cyclonic type persist, interspersed with heavier downpours.

When the rain ceases, the vegetation changes rapidly, becoming brown and seared, withered and seemingly dead. The dry savannah grasses may be burnt by humanoids, to help mobility and hunting. Many trees shed their leaves. Watercourses eventually fail to flow, and only here and there stagnant pools remain with floundering aquatic life; natives feast on the fish that are easily caught.

Climatic rhythm: season of rain and a season of drought. during the low-sun (dry season) period, the humidity is low and the air is hot, dry and dusty; strong winds may be present (desiccating the ground and plant life). Many small streams disappear and nature appears to be in hibernation. All this is changed when the high sun returns and the rains arrive. rivers are transformed from sluggish streams to raging torrents, green shoots of grass appear, trees send out new leaves, and all nature is rejuvenated. Rainfall is not reliable; beginning of the season is unpredictable, and wide variations in amounts from year to year.

Rivers loose lot of volume in the dry season, hampering navigation. Seasonal flooding occurs, depositing silt on the floodplains.

Lake Chad: an island-strewn lake, great expanse of shallow water frequently under 10foot deep, 10,400 sq miles, has no definite banks, often merging into swamps and varying in size and shape from season to season with fluctuations in rainfall; no outlet, underground drainage.

Vegetation: light tropical forest, grasses, shrubby/scrubby undergrowth; trees shorter and less numerous than in (Af); more readily penetrated. most typical vegetation is savannah grass; tall, tough and mostly inedible grasses, 10+ feet high in the wet season; grasslands often present a nearly impenetrable wall of rank vegetation making travel on foot difficult, unless wild game trails are available. the seasonality of the rainfall is reflected in the colours of the landscape: a monotonous vista of brown during the dry season is replaced by pleasing successions of greens following the rains. the savannah grass usually grows as individual stalks and attains heights from 4 to sometimes 20 feet. the first early shoots are tender and palatable to the grazing herds but the grasses later turn coarse and stuff. mixed in-between are the various types of trees. in drier areas, 3-5 feet high grasses with thorn trees are found. The merging of forest and grass is imperceptible; progression (also in decreasing rainfall): tropical rain forest –> parkland savannah –> savannah –> steppe.

Occupations: in the floodplains, soil is very fertile; elsewhere, low quality. Hunting, fishing, forest produce; farming is an option (subsistence rice growing). Trade is popular (e.g. handcraft, processed food)

Aw climate: grass with scattered, flat-topped trees is characteristic of Aw climate where the winter season is definitely dry, as in tropical South Africa.

Natives more advanced than those in the rain forests; the climate forces them to plan and provide for the dry season. Few are exclusive hunters - bows and arrows, spears, (blowguns), pit traps along game trails. where lakes, streams and sea, fishing becomes important. Agriculture is the dominant support system. migratory agriculture is also practised; in the more forested areas, rudimentary agriculture of the sedentary type is practised. Grass is burnt in the dry season; hoes or mattocks till the soil; growing period is during the rainy season (millet, corn, wheat, peas, beans, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, peanuts, cotton). Regular trading with the grazing tribes is carried on by these farming groups.

In the drier regions, planting is more risky, and grazing of cattle dominates. Many tribes of the savannahs depend chiefly on cattle for subsistence; used for milk and seldom butchered; also indicate status and wealth.

In settlements near water, millet is sown at the start of the rainy season; when the crop is in, able-bodied members of the tribe move their herds in search of grass while others remain to care for the fields; during the dry season the tribe returns to harvest and store the grain.

Animals: elephant, gazelle, gnu, zebra, giraffe, lion, tiger, leopard. Grasslands support vast herds of herbivorous animals. During the dry season, the animals migrate to places where water is available; even to the slopes of mountains, and higher forests. When the rain season returns, herds disperse from the waterholes and divide into smaller groups.

B: The dry climate

General characteristics: low humidity; much sunshine; considerable wind; struggle for available water resources by plants and animals. Within deserts, rain comes at infrequent intervals (months, or even years). Occasional cloudbursts do occur - much erosion. The clear skies of dry lands leads to rapid cooling at night. Agriculture is precarious; subject to caprices of nature. Risk and failure haunt the croplands of semi-arid portions, where farmers attempt practices common in the humid lands. Crops are restricted to drought tolerant species. Grass is the chief resource in many areas and there, grazing is the basic activity. Settlements are widely dispersed, having developed near mineral deposits, and dependable supplies of water (irrigation > intensive agric.)

Two types of location (1) deep interior of large continent, far from ocean (= primary source of atmospheric atmosphere) (2) dry shadow on the lee side of high coastal mountains.

Natural vegetation: grass, scrub and desert xerophytes. Trees appear only along water courses, or on slopes of higher elevation, where rain is more abundant.

Steppes: grass, the vegetative cover in semi-arid lands of nearly all the B regions, varies in height and density of stand with rainfall. (e.g. veld). Deserts: grasses are gradually replaced by low shrubs on die drier margins. (sagebrush). Cacti appear on the subtropical margins. Also: greasewood, creosote bush, mesquite, shadscale.

Animals: herbivores, carnivores, rodents, reptiles and birds. Insect life is common (grasshoppers doing great damage). Antelopes, wild asses and horses, bactrian camels, wolves, coyotes, rabbit, gopher, prairie dog, bison, wild dog. Vast ranges with low density (but still great numbers) of goat, sheep, beef.

BSh steppe

Weather: 7-8 months: dry conditions; winter: overcast + rain is not uncommon; yet one of prevalent sunshine and generally healthful weather conditions.

BSk steppe

Weather: winter precipitation = snow; also blizzards, severe cold waves

BWh desert

Austere; inimical to settlement.

Weather: unreliability is characteristic of the rainfall; sunshine is the lure of the desert; skies are predominantly clear both day and night.

BWk desert

Weather: summer rain; some thunderstorms

Deserts in general - BW: "Tropical Deserts"

BWk climate: owing in part to a moderately even distribution of precipitation, the cool desert supports a varied type of drought-resisting vegetation. Joshua trees are fairly common on the BWk lands of the USA.

These are lands so hostile that life scarcely exists over vast areas. Sunshine, heat and wind comprise the climate with rain only a whim of nature, having little seasonal variation. In no other regions are life and water so intimately related. The meagre vegetation and limited animal life must make special adjustments to the heat, aridity and excessive evaporation. Homes are constructed with thick walls for insulation, and light-coloured clothing is often word to reflect the daily stream of the sun's rays.

The location of agriculture is strictly determined by the presence of water. Subsistence; grazing exists only through a constant nomadic quest for forage and water. Dependence on animals and crops from oases has dominated desert livelihood for centuries.

Weather: the climate is one of extremes: temp highest on earth, rain lowest; air is so warm and dry that rain is often evaporated before it reaches the ground; fiery furnace by day, uncomfortable cold at night. Each day the sun blazes down from usually cloudless skies, and the heat shimmers from the rocks and dunes. Seasons have little meaning.

Where highlands are absent, winds sweep unhampered across the open spaces; with even a slight breeze the air is filled with sand and dust. The burning winds are so unpleasant that they are known by a special name.... Sandy areas have more rapid diurnal temp. changes than rocky areas.

To the observer from humid lands, the desert is a world apart; landscape and surface features are entirely different. Dust-laden violent winds; parched, thirsty, dusty sparse vegetation; and above all, great heat by day.

Water: water means life in the desert. Knowledge of where and how a continuous supply can be found is of utmost concern to the desert dwellers. Sources of water: (1) Exotic rivers: rises in rainy areas beyond the borders and carries a manageable volume across the desert (eg Nile) irrigation works from the river inland is possible. (2) Wadi bottoms closed basins, in which water collects forming a temporary lake. seepage groundwater below the bed of the wadi is sometimes reached through wells. A more or less continuous string of settlements may develop where the subsurface water is abundant and easily tapped. (3) Springs: a natural spring may occur even in the desert land. (4) Artesian water depends on certain types of geologic structures, resulting in water trapped between certain layers; this can be drilled for.

Natural vegetation: almost no vegetation. valleys with permanent watercourses are commonly lined with trees; cacti are found. many types of grasses are found in most deserts, usually present in solitary tufts. "Pigmy" plants may also be present; so too thorn bushes. Few places in the desert are entirely devoid of plants and even in the most barren areas there may be a host of dormant seeds which will spring into life at the first sign of moisture.

Animals: camouflage from pale yellow to red; small; desert fox and a species of antelope are the largest; few birds; few insects. camels - well adapted.

Occupations: great distances between oases and nomadic encampments; within these seas of waste are scattered islands where a permanent water supply has favoured settlement. Partly sedentary life may be supported; some grazing. small desert oases are possible, with dates, wheat, barley, vegetables, fruit, cotton available if irrigated. Great bulk of people are oasis agriculturists, small groups are nomads depending on their small herds, and lesser numbers are engaged in mining / commercial activity in the 'ports of the desert'. Only at focal trade centres, located on navigable portions of rivers, on seas, or in oases, did large population centres arise.

(1) Nomadic hunters the most primitive; e.g. bushmen; small family clans; life requires considerable ability, much hardship, privation. game is their principal food; lizards, snakes, frogs, worms and ant eggs when game is short. make no provision for the future, thus there are times of feasting and times of starvation. few possessions; crude dwellings (caves, shallow holes, branches with skins); ostrich egg shells and crude earthen pots for utensils. (2) Pastoral nomadism a wanderer whose life revolves around care of animals and search for grass. occupy the wetter desert margins more favourable for forage. grouped as tribes; no aimless shifting of flocks from pasture to pasture - movements follow time-tested routes. tent serves as home; all equipment geared to mobility. sheep, goats, camels and horses provide milk, cheese, meat, wool and hides; surplus traded with oasis dwellers for dates and grain. spinning and weaving: clothes, blankets, tents, rugs. (3) Oasis agriculture sickle, flail, wooden flow, pole and bucket irrigation, water wheel drawn by animals. cotton is a popular enterprise. livestock limited. date palms are a characteristic of oasis landscape. farmers live in villages with flat-roofed houses constructed of either sunbaked mud or stone. thick walls and roofs provide protection against the intense heat of the day and the cool of the night.

Minerals: Cu, gum arabic, black opals, Au, Pb, mineral salts (nitrates, borax) [only mined in modern times]

Steppe in general

Natural vegetation: bunch grasses; in wetter areas, continuous carpets of grasses. thorny bushes; (thorn forest: 30 foot, bushes 5 foot high. bare branches - leaves at 20 foot.) scrub trees (only in favoured places, like canyons, along rivers, and in higher more moist spots) thorn scrub: bushes 4 - 10 foot high. dense, sturdy.

Cattle and sheep may graze here,

Occupations: more population than in deserts; cities are somewhat more common; humid grasslands used for foraging; animal industries dominate the occupations.

Minerals: coal, copper, silver, diamonds. [only mined in modern times]

C: Humid Mesothermal

Cwa: Hot summer, dry winter

Weather: extremely hot summers; oppressive because of high humidity. Onset of the cool season brings renewed energy and relief to the people; rains slacken, skies clear and a balmy climate ensues. Cold winters are a distinctive feature of all Cw climates. Annual range in temperature is large, since the summer heat resembles that of the rainy tropics.

The year is divided into four clearly marked seasons. Daily weather is highly variable and seasons differ considerably from year to year.

Cold front: as it advances, ahead is caused heavy rain and sudden change in wind direction; moves at 20-35 miles/hour; after passing, the weather is clear and the air cool and dry.

Rain throughout the year, maximum in summer. Summer rains are frequently associated with thunder and lightning, winter rain is frequently in the form of snow, although part falls as a cold disagreeable rain. Snow cover persists from a few weeks to several months, and the visible evidence thus gives the impression that winter precipitation is greater than summer.

Tornadoes develop during spring and summer in certain areas (approx. 15/year).

Most of the land is low relief, plains distinctive.

Natural vegetation: fairly varied veg.; mixed forest and grasses; hardwood forests (maple, oak, chestnut, hickory) conifers grown on sandy coastal areas or in cooler and higher elevations. at sub-humid margins, forests are replaced by prairie grasses.

Occupations: some of the highest density areas. subsistence agric. is dominant. (wheat, soybeans, barley, sorghum, millet, rice). Hunting, fishing, collecting, forestry, primitive agriculture; cattle. Fishing: sheltered coastal bays - oysters, clams. off the coast, good catches. inland fisheries - catfish, carp, buffalo fish.

Minerals: none except on a very tiny scale

Cwb: Warm summer, dry winter

Weather: few days are ever excessively hot; few nights are uncomfortably cold.

Natural vegetation: fairly varied veg.; native grasslands common

Occupations: subsistence agric. (eg maize, grains); stock raising

Minerals: Au, silver

Csa: Hot dry summer (Mediterranean)

Example: Cape Town (South Africa)

Mild rainy winters and hot dry summers. mountain slopes or plateau escarpments form picturesque backgrounds for every region, and all face the sea. low shrubs and brush mantle hillsides, interspersed with scrubby grey-green or bluish broadleaf evergreens. Weather: hot summers and mild winters; great diurnal temp. range. in summer, skies are clear, weather calm.

Cultures are complex and varied, but farming is the dominant activity in all regions. Olive-citrus-vine trio found here.

Summer skies are clear and blue and even in the rainy winter there is a high percentage of sunny weather. Sea breezes are common during the summer, moderating high daytime temperatures.

Surface features: plains occupy a relatively small portion of the dry summer subtropic regions. Rugged topography frequently dominates the landscape, restricting the amounts of land suited to cultivation.

Natural vegetation: higher: open forests; thinner woodlands; scrub; valleys/lowlands: open park woodland, grasses. Many trees are flat-topped, thick corky barks; gnarled; small leathery leaves. Xerophytic characteristics such as thick bark, small stiff shiny leaves, thorns, waxy surfaces - protect against excessive transpiration - low evergreen shrubs and brush thickets - fynbos. forests are composed of mainly broadleaf evergreens (widely spaced, large trunks, gnarled branches - olive, myrtle, holly, cork oak); conifers grow on the higher and wetter mountain slopes.

Occupations: farming. Hot summers with moist winters favour a distinctive combination of farming and pastoral activities; winter wheat and barley are especially well adapted to the climate; harvest in early part of dry season.

Agriculture: in no other region of the world is farming so diverse and yet so specialized, dominating the activity of man: (1) crops using winter rainfall (wheat, barley, beans) planted in fall; (2) drought-resistant with large root systems, to permit growth even in dry summer. (grapes, olives, nuts, various fruit) & (3)crops grown under irrigation - great variety of vegetation and many fruits. Crops: grapes, figs, olives, peaches, plums, almonds, walnuts, citrus fruit. Hot dry summer used to cure fruit. Sheep, goats, donkeys, mules, horses. Commerce well established; fishing; tourist trade.

Generally there are few dairy or beef cattle; large numbers of sheep and goats, used for meat, milk and fibre, are found in the non-arable areas throughout the hills and mountains.

Fishing: of local significance; an important commercial activity. a string of fishing villages with small fleets occupy inlets and bays along the coast; sardines are common. Generally, a shortage of timber, so stone is quarried for building.

Minerals: small scale - coal, Au, silver, Pb, Cu, Hg, S, Fe, phosphates

Csb: Warm dry summer

Weather: moderately warm summers, mild winters. Coastal areas: fogs (40 dense fogs per year; light fogs more often) -- condense on trees, drop to the ground as water - because of these fogs that giant redwoods grow; fogs tend to form near sundown, dissipated by the sun during the forenoon of the next day; other fogs obscure the sun for several days at a time, yielding some light rain. Snow on hills and mountain slopes not uncommon in winter. Strong sea winds at times do considerable structural damage to coastal areas; also to shipping.

Terrain types: valleys, hills, basins and even low mountains, rather than extensive plains.

Natural vegetation: from chaparral, grasses to extensive forests; (eucalyptus, redwood, pine, fir).

Occupations: winter wheat and oats; some barley; sugar beet; flax; apples, plums, peaches, pears, apricots, grapes. Sheep and cattle (beef, dairy); cheese-making; extensive deep-sea fishing

Minerals: very small scale - coal, Au

Cfa: Hot summer

Example: Durban (South Africa)

The final outposts of the tropics; a mild rainy climate favours the cultivation of a wide variety of crops, hence agriculture dominates land use; however, sharp contrasts occur from region to region in farming types and crop accents; commercial farming well established.

Weather: snow in high-altitude locations throughout year; very high altitude, snow is heavy and persistent; long-enduring drought or excessive rains in short periods - are not uncommon. hurricanes occur (~4 per year); tidal waves.

Hot, moist summers and generally mild winters. Summer temp are high; humidity too and, with the oppressive heat, makes summer weather particularly uncomfortable. Nights remain warm and sultry, offering little relief from the heat. Summers parallel the climate of the rainy tropics.

Winters are mild; some regions may have wintry blasts of cold air from elsewhere, causing below-freezing weather. Those areas that lack cold continental backgrounds have higher average winter temps.

Growing seasons are long, and in some areas (Natal) are continuous. Rainfall is abundant and occurs throughout the year, with a summer maximum. Tropical cyclones are caused by heavy rains in late summer (hurricane/typhoon).

Despite the prevalence of summer rain, there is a high percent of sunshine. In winter, instead of the sunshine-shower-sunshine weather of summer, winter rain more often falls as a persistent drizzle from dull gray skies. Less rain falls in winter but there are generally more completely overcast days.

Snow is found in areas nearer the poles.

Some coastal areas are subject to violent tropical cyclones in the late summer and early fall. Cold winds occur sometimes in certain regions; hot winds from the interior; tornadoes (small violent storms) occur in the summer and spring (they hang from large cumulonimbus clouds like a funnel and spin with great speed; the portion touching down is 300-1500 feet across; property destruction is almost complete.)

Natural vegetation: full-fledged tree growth is common; broadleaf hardwoods, conifers, mixtures of; some mixed grassland possible. Forests!! Forests that constitute much of the natural cover are favoured in the humid subtropics by an abundance of moisture and a nearly year-round period of growth.

Broadleaf evergreens prevail; occasional understories of other growth thickets. Elsewhere: conifers occupy the sand less-fertile coastal plains, the pine forests grow in open stands with a low undercover of coarse grass and shrubs. Dense forests of hardwoods, including cypress, red gum, thrive in the poorly drained river bottoms. More open hardwood stands occupy the better-drained bottom land sites. Hickory, chestnut, oak and poplar from a cover in the rougher uplands. Towards the drier margins the forests are gradually replaced by grasses, with trees restricted to the river banks. coarse marsh grasses abound in the poorly drained areas.

Animals: game birds, deer, fox, squirrel, opossum, racoon, mink, otter, muskrat, water birds (heron, crane, ibis, egret). crocodiles, alligator, manatee, turtles, snakes. antelope, hyena, hippo.

Occupations: Man: the most populous of all regions. massive numbers of farmers - abundant moisture, warmth, long growing season = excellent conditions for crop growth (fruit, tea, fibres, veg, grain, sugarcane, pineapples).

Some dairy and beef cattle with the land used for pasture and forage. Without question among the most important in the world agriculturally - subtropical and temperate crops. enormous amounts of rice, tea, vegetable fibre, corn, alfalfa, cotton, corn, wheat, fruit, vegetables, wool. Extensive cattle & sheep farming.

High population density, many cities; most of the worlds largest cities. With productive and populous hinterlands supplying numerous items of international trade and with many of the world best harbours, commerce of the region is phenomenal. thus many of the worlds largest seaports and river ports are found here. Fishing is carried out; not major industry. numerous sheltered coves are clustered with small fishing villages which supply local markets. (sardine, cod, salmon, mackerel, tuna, crab, seaweed, shellfish, shrimp, oyster)

Minerals: coal, Fe, Al, S, Mg, Zi, Pb. tungsten, tin, Hg, antimony

Cfb: Warm summer (England)

Weather: very few severe hot or cold waves; when they do occur, they are disastrous. Fairly even and ample rainfall. Summers are cool. Weeks of hot weather are rare, but maxima occasionally occur. Summer nights are seldom too warm for sleeping and blankets are often needed for comfort. In winter, the humidity may be high, and thus uncomfortable. Thunderstorms are infrequent (3-10/year) and happen in mountains.

Snow is expected in almost all of the region. Lowlands, only a few days with snow - lie on ground a few days. Highlands: deep snow cover; remain for several weeks.

Rain: mild extended rain and cloudy weather; sometimes a winter maximum. large number of rainy days; rain falls in continuous drizzles. High degree of reliability; drought infrequent.

Cloud: much cloudy weather - the cloudiest on earth. (70% days are cloudy in summer). Fogs are prevalent. Serious fogs anytime 50 days per year on coast. Strong winds in the winter.

Ample precipitation; summers cool and winters mild. Moderate temp., liberal rainfall.

Green dominates nature's landscape, interrupted only briefly by yellows and browns of late summer and the bright hues of fall. Cloud and rain are typical for many months of the year, considerable sunshine occurs during summer and early fall.

Very rough topography and highly irregular coastlines are characteristics features of most of these regions. Fringed with islands, deeply indented with long steep-walled narrow arms of the sea known as fjords. Many water resources; navigable rivers.

Natural vegetation: long growing seasons; forests cover the region. Wind and bad soil prevent trees in certain regions, encouraging moors, heaths and bogs, composed of shrubs, brushes, brakes, heather, bush cranberries and blueberries, scrub juniper, grasses and sedges. May also find grasslands.

Forests, favoured by the temp. rainy climate, comprise the typical natural vegetation. Each region has different types of cover, but the density and sizes of trees is pretty constant. Oak and beech are principal types; conifers scarce and confined chiefly to the higher elevations. Also: redwoods (300 ft high, 10 ft diameter), Douglas fir (200 ft high, 6-9 ft diam.), hemlock, cedar, spruce. eucalyptus (300 ft).

Scrub forest and grass grows on areas of less precip. Poor soils and drainage lead to marshes and moors.

Temperate deciduous forest: fungi; shagbark hickory, white oak, mountain winterberry. (trees 65 foot high, massive trunks, spreading from about 10 foot above ground).

Animals: wood frog, may beetle , white-footed mouse, wood-boring beetle; long-tailed weasel, gray squirrel; racer (snake); white-tailed dear; broad-winged hawk. hairy woodpecker.

Occupations: has long been regarded as one of the best in which to live and work. coastland high latitude are very sparsely populated; hills and plateaus light-moderate population; lowlands usually heavily populated, sometimes congested (very large workforce).

Massive concentration on all sorts of manufacturing; much trade is carried out. Wheat, oats, rye, barley, sugar beets, corn, fruit, veg., flax, hemp; extensive cattle (beef, and dairy), sheep. Along cool coastal waters: fishing, whaling.

However: not endowed with the best conditions for farming. crops restricted. Rich fishing grounds. Rivers; drowned river mouths and fjords serve as excellent ports; (salmon, halibut, tuna, cod, haddock, herring, mackerel). Fishing/farming/lumbering as occupations.

Minerals: coal, Fe, Al, S, Mg, Zi, Pb. tungsten, tin, Hg, antimony

Cfc: Cool summer

Weather: occasional, short-lived, continental winds or blasts of polar air let temp. drop to zero. in general, the climate is uncomfortable cool and raw, with many gray, drizzly days and considerable wind which makes the cool or cold damp air feel very penetrating. most days are either foggy, cloudy or rainy, or all three; there is little sunshine. high alt., snow occurs any time; coast: in winter, briefly.

Natural vegetation: taiga ("northern forests"; slightly higher, protected regions) and tundra (anywhere; strong winds inhibit trees; grass grows readily); thin and stony soil.

Polar grassland/arctic tundra: moss, dwarf willow, mountain cranberry- lemming, willow ptarmigan (bird), snowy owl, horned lark, long-tailed jaeger (bird), caribou, arctic fox, grizzly bear

Occupations: natural occupation in these fog-enshrouded coasts and islets is fishing. (catching, tanning, salting, drying) also: lumbering, gold mining, merchandising, trading. some areas have sheep and long-fibre wool. barley is grown; also cabbage and turnips.

Minerals: some gold.

D: humid microthermal

Dfa: Hot summer

Weather: summers are long and generally hot. high humidity means almost tropical conditions. hot waves sometimes. rain throughout the year. Severe thunderstorms, squalls, tornadoes wreak havoc every year,

Natural vegetation: mainly gently rolling plains of grasses, stretching as far as the eye can see, interrupted by trees only along the watercourses (tall prairie grasses; or shorter steppe varieties). Sizeable tracts of broadleaf decid. trees (oak, hickory, beech, maple) in favoured locations. Tall-grass prairie: blue-stem grass and prairie coneflower; prairie dog, grasshopper, grasshopper sparrow, pronghorn antelop, coyote, golden eagle

Occupations: no other climate is more richly endowed for the pursuit of agriculture; much processing happens, either of food or animal products. Flat and bountiful farmland. corn, wheat, oats, soybeans, cattle and swine are raised in great abundance; sheep, barley rye, hays, fruit, veg. are also important. much of the corn, oats, soybeans and hays are fed to animals, but most of the what, barley, rye, fruit and veg as well as swine and beef cattle are exported. only the mountainous areas are economically dull.

Minerals: coal

Dfb: Warm summer

Weather: at times bitterly cold winter; cloudy, drizzly weather. snowfall predominant. Mainly large interior areas, little marine influence. Winters: mod.-severe cold ; summer precipitation (unreliable; dry years occur fairly often). Winter precip. in form of rain (60-80 days of snow/year); snow is an important element. covers the ground frequently and for long periods, esp. in the colder and less dry portions. snow cover reflects heat, and night temp. drops. cover last for 4 mnths or more. Strong wind + freezing temp + blinding snow = blizzard/buran. = extremely hazardous to man and livestock. Winters are long and severe, and differ annually. summers are short, but a few months are warm; however, long hours of daylight, but still the plot growth potential is less than regions to the south.

Natural vegetation: some mixed forests; also prairie and steppe grasses. Chiefly plains, low mountains, rolling plateaus. Forests are the natural cover in the wetter portions (evergreen: pine, spruce, hemlock, fir; deciduous: birch, aspen, beech, poplar, maple). the foliage of the hardwoods during fall season adds brilliant splashes of colour to the landscape. in poorly drained area, heath and moor is usual. marshes occur along flat banks of rivers that are flooded during the spring thaw.

Agriculture: raising spring wheat. no corn - growing season only 3-5 months. few crops of any sort grow to maturity. Dairy and small grain and root crops.

Occupations: spring wheat crops large. massive dairy farming. also: rye, barley, oats, sugar beets, millets, hay, flax, hemp, deciduous fruit. besides dairying, small amount of swine, beef, sheep. some nomadic herding. fishing (lakes,. coast, rivers) is major source of food. Lumbering, hunting and forestry; Specialities in manufacturing: flour milling, pulp and paper production, canning of fish, processing of milk and cream products; iron and metal works; Fishing: one of the major fishing grounds. coastal rivers provide cod, haddock, flounder. deep-sea fishing is especially profitable. lakes are also fishable.

Minerals: coal, iron, nickel, tungsten, chromite; many others, in smaller amounts, making it one of the richest climates from a mineralogical standpoint.

Dwa: Hot summer, dry winter

Weather: distinct dry season in winter; droughts and floods are possible. in winter, dust storms from semiarid lands are possible; snowfall not major.

Natural vegetation: excellent cover of short grass. uplands and mountains have mixed decid. and coniferous forest, lowlands have broadleaf trees.

Occupations: agriculture is an important asset. the plains are source of surplus food production. major crop is the soybean; also large quantities of wheat, sorghum and various millets. barley, rice, oats also in some areas. animal industries much less important. forests produce spruce, elm, larch, birch, oak, fir, pine. trapping of furs also happens. fishing is common in the chief rivers and tributary lakes.

Manufacturing of iron goods and processing of food and lumber products, clay products, clothing. commerce is more important, though.

Minerals: considerable amounts of Fe, coal, some gold, anthracite, silver, copper, graphite, tungsten.

Dwb: Warm summer, dry winter

Natural vegetation: mixed forest, with conifers prominent. also: part grassland part broadleaf.

Occupations: quite low pop; dominant is agriculture - barley, millet, peanuts, soybeans. some cattle and swine. coastal fishing important, but very seasonal.

Subsistence farming, nomadic herding, hunting, fishing and gathering of forest products.

Minerals: coal, Fe, Zi, Pb

Dfc, Dwc, Dfd, Dwd: sub-arctic

Subarctic regions are the lands of the northern coniferous forest. dark evergreens appear interminable, sharing the landscape with swamps and bogs, thousands of lakes, winding rivers, and rushing streams. the subarctics are winter strongholds; summer is brief; spring and fall are fleeting. when winter grips the land, nature seems at rest. the ground is blanketed with snow, streams are stilled, lakes are paved with ice, frost hardens the soft, moist lowlands, birds have migrated, and most animals remain in hiding unless in search of food. The crash and thunder of breaking ice heard the end of winter. the melting snow soon saturates the low, open lands, vegetation springs into life, countless insects fill the air, and birds return from the south. Winter is the season for mans activity; ice and snow become highways for travel, and the air is clear of troublesome insects. loggers, hunters and trappers invade the forest, but numbers are small - man is always scarce and usually transient. isolation keynotes the region; forests keynote the economy.

Weather: extreme conditions. All have a forest cover, extensive stands of northern conifers -- taiga. long, bitterly cold winter, very short summer. fall and spring are transition seasons of short duration. killing-frosts occur. winds may drop temperatures in midsummer to freezing. winter: long nights, very short days; snow fall in the form of dry but hard powdery snow. Coastal fogs occur. Large volumes of cold air carried by strong winds bearing snow -- blizzards, causing much harm. ('buran', 'purga'). Winters are long and severe; six months+ are below freezing. coast areas modified by open water bodies have warmer winters and cooler summers. short growing season (50-100 days). in june, 18 hours of sunlight; in december 22, 6 hours. Little precip.; max. during summer. since winter air is too cold to contain much moisture. snow, dry and granular, falls during the cold season, seldom to any depth, but remains on the ground from 5 - 7 months, receiving protection from the forest.

Dwc climate: The short, cool summers and the long, cold and dry winters do not favour a luxuriant forest cover in the Dwc lands of the upper Lena River valley in Siberia. The long and moist summer days, however, permit forage and hardy grain crops.

Dwd climate: sparse forests of semi deciduous coniferous trees are characteristic of the bitterly cold Dwd climate of north-eastern Siberia. In spite of the dry winters, snow remains on the ground throughout most of the winter; the season here is April.

Natural vegetation: the taiga - extensive forest cover of northern conifers - consists of fir, spruce, pine, larch. trees not that huge, to lumbering is not as productive as once thought; but the extent makes it the world largest softwood reservoir.

Taiga (evergreen coniferous: white spruce, balsam fir, bebb willow, starflower, fungi, bunchberry (coniferous forest: some 30 ft, tops 75 ft branches from about 10ft high to top; typically pine trees.); pine beetle, blue jay, great horned owl, snowshoe hare, moose, marten (fox), wolf.

Even large rivers are frozen 5-8 months; thawing in summer results in floods in the lower basins -- river navigation is thus limited to a short period (~ 2 months). Quick-ripening fruit and veg. may survive the short summer. Many pockets of peaty soil have developed. From coast to coast is the taiga, or northern coniferous forest, one of the greatest forest belts in the world. (spruce, larch, fir, pine). intermingled with the conifers, paralleling stream banks, or forming solitary clumps, are willow, alder, aspen and birch. forest floors are quite clear with coverings of moss, lichens, and low bushes. Poleward, the forest thins and trees become smaller > "dwarf bushes". Taiga is not a continuous forest region - where it borders the steppes it is occasionally broken by open prairies. Many massive moss swamps - composed of accumulated, decayed vegetation. during summer thaws, turns into a morass, infested with biting and stinging insects, inhibiting travel.

Animals: abundance of animal life. rich variety of species ranges throughout the stretches of open forest > food and protection. forest browsers: caribou, reindeer, moose, elk. fur: beaver, fisher, fox, martin, mink, muskrat, otter, weasel, ermine, wolverine. Bears, wolves, lynx, squirrels, hares; grouse, woodpecker, grosbeak. Streams and lakes well stocked with fish. Insect life is superabundant; summer in swamps, ponds and general moist lowlands = breeding places. clouds of mosquitoes, stinging gnats and black flies make life miserable for man and beast; insects are one of the great drawbacks to living in the taiga. Great flocks of birds arrive in spring, leave in approach to winter. caribou, hares, birds - summer inhabitants of the tundra - invade the taiga in winter for protection and food.

Agriculture: little attractive to farmers; long bitterly cold winters, short cool growing season, bad soils. lack of transport and great market distances are limits. long mid-summer days allows crops of hardy veg., grain, hay, pasture crops. potatoes, turnips, radishes, peas, lettuce, cabbage, rye, oats, small fruits, are used, but not major.

Occupations: low pop. - not much activity, unless unusual circumstances combine locally to make mining, lumbering or trade profitable. subsistence activity, including reindeer grazing, fur trading. climate offers little to man, and what is there, must be gained by hard work.

Ground frozen - permafrost. when the ground remains frozen, transportation is usually simple; but when 2 or 3 feet thaw in the summer, producing a mass of spongy ground and superficial swamps, it is difficult to negotiate much of the taiga. The large and relatively inaccessible interiors present a wilderness where life is hard, isolated and rather primitive; the annoying presence of the mosquito and its pestering ally the black fly during the summer is an important deterrent to settlement.

Frontiers of settlement. harsh climate (marginal plants growth, unpleasant) and great distances between settlements, makes this unattractive country. subsistence living (hunting, fishing, trapping furs). Furs were the early attraction to the taiga. trapping and trading of pelts lucrative. winter is the trapping season, since furs are prime - longer, glossier and thicker. the trapper must take all his supplies, food blankets traps weapons - into the woods. establishes a base camp near a stream or lake, sets his traps. the entire winter is spent checking the string of traps, hunting and preparing the pelts for market. with spring thaw, he returns to a collecting centre in the city.

Minerals: Great variety of minerals in the mountains; Fe, Au, Cu, Zi, nickel, platinum.

E: polar (arctic)

Weather: extreme cold. Nowhere are winters as long and cold, summers so short. darkness and light divide the year, more than the day.

Natural vegetation: no local agriculture. Land animals (polar bears, penguins) and abundant strictly aquatic life (whales, seals, fish).

Minerals: coal, copper, cryolite.

E climate: life in this tundra phase of the E climate in northern Sweden is less rigorous than in some of the extreme continental situations further south and east.


Highlands are the most spectacular of the earth's surface features, because of their bulk, height and steepness of slope. Mountains act as barriers to man, animals and plants; hindrances to transport (which is costly, and requires great engineering skills). Isolation is a mountain trait often resulting in the preservation of old customs, languages and habits. Mountain people are often conservative, industrious, individualistic and independent.

Lower uplands frequently occur in isolation; assume the form of hills or plateaus; not as isolated; human occupation is sometimes closely associated with that of the neighbouring lowlands. Settlements are found on the sunny (south) side, while the shady north sides are often avoided.

Diurnal temperature ranges are great. Evaporation rates are higher; markedly when slopes exposed to both sun and wind (> mountain climbers in the high elev. often experience considerable thirst). Growing season rapidly decreases with altitude. Precipitation is generally greater than on the neighbouring lowlands. thunderstorms are more frequent and especially terrifying due to the reverberations. snow is characteristic; begin in early autumn, continue intermittently until late spring. snow cover on windward side is deep. Winter transportation is facilitated by use of sleds or skis. (e.g. move hay from small isolated pastures to barn in the main valleys; loggers cutting on slopes move trees over snow). Adverse effects: early: destroys crops; slow-melting: delay in crop planting; blocks roads; masses of heavy snow avalanche down slopes, destroying forests/villages. Mountain (cold night air flows down hills and into valleys) and valley (warm air up mountain sides by day) winds are common diurnal phenomena.

Endless variety of form - slopes seldom exceed 35° and most average 20-25°.

Young mountains are sharp and steep, highly irregular surface, peaks often snow-covered year round. valleys are v-shaped with little room for settlement. streams are swift; minerals buried deeply out of reach. Mature highlands exposed to weathering and erosion are more subdued; lost their ruggedness. elevations have been lowered and often even the highest peaks are below the timber line. valleys are broader and slopes more rounded. Old mountains are reduced to series of low, rolling hills or even a near plain-like surface. greater possibility for settlement because valleys are broader and slopes less steep. frequently they are the location of important mineral deposits.

Igneous rock: solidified from molten magma, pushed upwards into the crust and sometimes onto the surface. (granite, basalt, tuff, breccia). Sedimentary rock: fine-grained limestone -- medium textured sandstone -- coarse and irregular conglomerates that resemble concrete. Metamorphic rock: undergone change (e.g. pressure, water, heat): shale becomes slate, limestone becomes marble, granite becomes gneiss. Soft rocks (shale) most often give rise to gentle slopes, plains, and subdued relief features (if inclined steeply, deep dissection may occur). Harder rock (granite) produce more enduring and bold landscapes. Folded: stress/strain that cause the crust to wrinkle and develop series of folds. Faultblock: rocks fracture, causing blocks to raise/lower. Intrusive igneous: large masses of magma forced upwards into the crust, cause the upper strata to be bowed-up in circular pattern. Volcanic: accumulation of molten material, pour out upon the surface.

Natural vegetation: vegetation of low altitudes similar to the surrounding lowlands and changes slowly with elevation. If broadleaf, they are gradually replaced by conifers. Grasslands or desert shrub at the base are also replaced by conifers. If conifers form the base, then there is a species change.

Mountains and plant growth (arranged in increasing altitude, in feet):

up to 3000 feet: cacao, rubber, bananas [selva / jungle ]
to 6500 feet: coffee, corn, rice, sugar [broadleaf trees]
up to 10 000 feet: potatoes, wheat, maize, small grains [conifers]
------------- timber line --------------
up to 14,500 feet: alpine zone
shrub zone (stunted and gnarled trees)
grassland [alpine meadow, alps]
tundra like veg.
bare rock
------------- snowline --------------
14 500+: snow.

Animals: animals esp. characteristic of mountains live in the alpine zone; life in the lower areas is similar to that found in the lower areas. alpine animals freq. migrate to the forest zone during the winter or when food becomes scarce in the alpine pastures. herbivores; coarse hair/thick fur; sure-footed climbing animals, strong spreading hoofs (yak, musk deer, ibex, wild sheep, marmot, other rodents)

Man in the mountains: mountains tend to repel large development. some seek this rigorous environment for: freedom, refuge, seclusion, overcrowding on lowlands. Population is thinly spread out and often absent. (may be isolated regions - valleys/plateaus where pop.numbers are large). The range of economic opportunity is seldom as wide in the highland environs as on the plains; mans adjustments frequently not as complex, nor as advanced > difficulty in travel and intercourse with the outside > promote backward cultures > social and economic retardation.

Agriculture: irregular surface with scarce flat land limits farm sizes, shapes and numbers, and leads to serious difficulties. soil shallow, infertile, erosion. short growing season. distinct limit to coarse grains, hardy vegs., tree fruits and hay. all of these cannot normally be grown in the same locality. Where overpopulation is found, terracing is practised > industrious and co-operative peasantry > high-quality cultivators & gardeners. The pasturing of livestock on slopes, alpine meadows and open-forestlands of the high elevations is major agric. activity. each year the animals are driven into the high pastures as soon as the snow cover disappears: like a slow moving gray cloud, the sheep being their long journey. trek-wise rams lead, herders on horseback and scurrying sheep dogs guard the flanks, and the pack asses bring up the rear. movement begins during the cool of the evening and the approx. 200 mile trip is accomplished in easy stages of 15 miles a night to accustom the sheep to the colder temps. and higher altitude. Dairy cows - most important animal in the small mountain village - milk, butter, cheese. there may be a ceremony when cows are released from long winter stay in the barn to the alps. herders chosen by the village accompany the cattle to the high pasture and stay there till late summer, milking and making cheese. cheese taken down and shared among cattleowners. kids make trips to the alps for cheese, and take up food etc.; in the village, work continues with crops and hay.

Salt marshes

cordgrass, marsh periwinkle (snail), clamworm, clams, fish, herring gulls, snowy egret, short-billed dowitcher, peregrine falcon.

Rocky shore beach

Sea urchin, flatworms. sea star, kelp, sea lettuce, anemone, mussel, barnacle, periwinkle, hermit crab, shore crab, sculpin (fish).

Sandy (barrier) beach

silverside (fish), blue crab, fiddler crab, peanut worm, clam, moon snail, sandpiper (bird), beach flea, tiger beetle, shrimp.

Coral reef

Hard corals, sponges, parrot fish, gray reef shark, green sea turtle, sea nettle (jelly), coral shrimp, basslet, moray eel.


This section, "Ocean Sources", was written by someone else. Unfortunately, I've lost the reference so don't know whom to credit.

From an ecological point of view: most of the life in the ocean is found in coastal areas, where sufficient light hits the sea bed. The oceans are pretty devoid of life, except for single celled phyto & zooplankton. The limiting factor is ususally the availability of nitrates and phosphates, and light, which doesn't penetrate more than 100m or so at maximium.

Deep ocean life survives purely on corpses raining down from above, and is really rare, except around volcanic vents.

Mid-ocean ridges usually have thermal vents which provide energy that powers ecosystems. These areas seem to be pretty diverse. But they're very deep & difficult to find.

The most productive areas are coastal upwellings, where water comes up from the deep oceas (and is loaded with nutrients) into the photic zone (where light penetrates). These areas are hugely productive. One example is off the coast of Peru. Coral reefs are hugely productive, rivalling rainforests for biodiversity. However they're mainly a surface phenomenon - they don't extend more than about 30m deep because the light runs out. I've heard that deep water coral reefs have been found in the north sea, but I don't know any details.

The other really productive areas are the edges of polar icecaps. When the ice melts in summer, huge amounts of trapped phytoplankton & nutriennts are released. This leads to a short lived explosion in productivity. Swarms of krill can contain densities of several per cubic centimetre, while extending for several tens of kilometres. They support baleen whales, penguins etc.

Regarding relative richeness in resources, I'd suggest: ocean beds = 3, continental shelf = 5, coastal = 7, mid ocean ridges = 5, polar oceans = 3 - 9 in summer, coral reefs = 9, coastal upwellings = 8 - 9 (there are only about six of these on earth, so they'd be pretty rare, but pretty large - possibly several maritime provinces in size; also subject to periodic fluctuations, as in the El Nino effect, in which the source level drops to 6).

Fishing would reduce the source levels of these provices. Assume that 50% of the population of a coastal province support themselves by fishing and 100% of the population of a small island - eg. provinces in mairada.


Plant succession over time

Primary succession: exposed rock –> lichens and mosses –> small herbs and shrubs –> heath mat –> ~40foot trees (pine, spruce, aspen) –> ~70foot trees (fir, birch, spruce)

Secondary succession: abandoned farm field –> annual weeds –> perennial weeds and grass –> shrubs –> young pine forest –> mature oak-hickory forest (150-200 year span)

Climate type and resources

Climate types arranged according to open access to rich ecological resources (from White & Burton 1986):

polar –> desert or cold steppe –> tropical rainforest –> moist temperate
tropical savanna
tropical highlands

Climate and subsistence patterns: Throwing it all together

Broadly stated, climate dictates the reaction of man to the environment and determines the kinds of things he can do for survivial. Nicking a page from the DM's Cookbook, I use the relationship set out in Table 3 (below) to link climate type with subsistence pattern and resulting population size.

Of course, in a high-tech world, Man (or Bayadeen or whatever) can substantially modify the environment and make other choices in response to the climate. Table 3 is thus only applicable to low-tech settings. And, since magic = high-tech, the table also only works for situations where magic is not uber-powerful. Furthermore, it is devised with humans as the assumed creatures. YMMV.

Grasping some of the basics of climatology and its wider impact has given me, as a worldbuilder, an excellent framework to use when thinking about how demi-humans would differ in their responses to the environment.

Table 3. Subsistence patterns and climate


(Key: h.g = hunter/gatherers; agr,h = heavy agriculture; agr,l = light agriculture; non = non-sustainable)

Table 3b. Population sizes, and comments (footnote to Table 3)

TypePopulation sizeComments
Af very lowprimitive; disease
Amvery low primitive; disease
Awlowprimitive to semiprimitive
BWvery lownomads / oasis
BSlowmore cities than BW; animal industries dominate
Cshighfarming, agriculture; trade
Cwhighsubsistence agriculture; low-tech; poor
Cfaextremely high largest cities; trade; massive forests
Dfbmediumpoor quality
Dwlowfrontier life
Eextremely low--

Knowing the climate type of a region, consult Table 3. Roll the appropriate dice (e.g. d6 in Af, d12 in BW, d8 in BS) to determine the predominant activity for a settlement (and see Table 3b for additional comments). Large settlements will have several subsistence patterns.

A roll of "non-sustainable" could be interpreted as the settlement having died out/abandoned/ruined, or maybe that conditions are tougher than usual with part of the population suffering from famine/social upheaval/revolution.

Happy rolling!


  1. Koeppe, C.E. & de Long, G.C. (1958) Weather and climate. McGraw-Hill.
  2. Monkhouse, F.J. (1962) Landscape From The Air: A physical geography in oblique air photographs. CUP.
  3. Papadakis, J. (1966) Climates of the world and their agricultural potential. Buenos Aires.
  4. White, D. & Burton, M. (l986) In: White et al. (eds.) Pre-coded Variables for the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample - volume I, prepared by William Divale. Code 857 of the Standard Cross-Cultural Codes.

2006 February 13 (landscape photos),
2006 May 23 (climate-terrain example table)

nothing more to see. please move along.