Steppe Climate - Temperate Continental Climate - Civil Services Preparation Online! UPSC & IAS Study Material

Steppe Climate – Temperate Continental Climate

by Devender

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The temperate grasslands border the deserts away from the Mediterranean regions and in the interiors of the continent. It features a semi-arid or steppe climate that lies between the tropics and Polar Regions.

They lie in the westerlies wind belt but they are still so remote from the maritime influence that the grasslands are basically treeless. The grasses are generally distinct in natural vegetation because the grasses that lie in the S-hemisphere have a much moderate climate due to the coastal effects of the seas and warm currents alongside whereas the grasslands in the N-hemisphere are comparatively warmer in the summers and colder in the winter because they are entirely continental.

  • In Eurasia, they are known as Steppes
  • It stretches eastward from the shores of the Baltic Sea across the Great Russian plains, to the foothills of the Altai Mountains
  • It is approximately 2000 miles
  • They are known as Pustaz in the isolated sections of Hungary & the Mongolian-Manchurian region
  • In North America, the grasslands are quite extensive and are known as Prairies
  • They lie between the foothills of the Rockies and the great lakes near the American-Canada border
  • The grasslands are restricted and less continental due to the narrowness of temperate portions of the southern continents of the Southern hemisphere. The grasslands in the Pampas of Argentina and Uruguay extend to the sea while enjoying much maritime influence.

    In South Africa, the grasslands are further divided into more tropical Bush Veld in the north and more temperate High Veld in the south. These grasslands are sandwiched between the Drakensberg and Kalahari deserts.

    In Australia, the grasslands are found in the Murray-Darling basin of southern Australia and are known as Downs.

    Steppe Climate

    In the northern hemisphere, they lie in the heart of continents. So, they have little maritime influence. Therefore, the climate is continental with extremes of temperature.

  • The summers are warm with approx. the temperature of around 25 Degree C
  • The winters are very cold with temperatures well under the freezing point approx. - 20 Degree C
  • The annual range of temperature is very high
  • In the southern hemisphere, the climate is never severe with warm summers having temperatures around 20 Degree C and winters with temperatures around 10 Degree C. It happens due to the maritime effect of the coasts.

    Therefore, the annual range of temperature is way less than the northern hemisphere steppes. The annual precipitation in N-Hemisphere has a mean annual of approx. of 50cm. The majority of rainfall takes place in summers from convectional sources. The winter rainfall is approx. 25mm/month which occurs due to the depressions of the westerlies and in the form of snow.

  • Due to the maritime influence in the southern hemisphere, the mean annual rainfall is always averaging above 50 cm
  • It is mainly due to the warm ocean currents that wash the shores of steppe lands
  • In Canada and the USA, on the eastern slopes of the Rockies, a local wind similar to Fohn (Switz) known as Chinook comes in a southwest direction to the Prairies and descending from the Rockies.

  • It is a hot wind that raises the temperature and melts the snow-covered pastures in winters and early springs
  • The frequent Chinook means mild winters in the region

  • Natural Vegetation of Steppe:
  • The temperate grasslands differ only in density and quality of grass and are referred to as the natural vegetation of the steppes. The steppes are generally treeless and grasses are much shorter which is the greatest difference between steppes and tropical savannas.

  • The grasses are tall, fresh, and nutritious in the regions of the N-hemisphere where the rainfall averages above 50 cm
  • It is described as long prairie grass
  • Examples include North America, the Rich Black earth of Russia and Ukraine, and better-watered areas of the Asiatic steppe
  • The short steppe type of grass exists in the areas where the rainfall is low or the soil is poor. For example - in the continental interiors of Asia. The grasses are not only but are also wiry & sparse. They are often found in discontinuous clumps with bare soil exposed between the patches. The climatic requirement of grass is quite different from that of trees.

  • Grasses require less moisture than trees
  • They require annual precipitation of approx. 25-50 cm
  • Summer drought and winter cold don’t impact the growth of the grasses much as they lie dormant throughout this period and as soon as the temperature is most and warm again, it sprouts instantly. The trees are very scarce in the steppes because of the shortage of rainfall, long droughts, and severe winters. There is the presence of long rolling plains of endless grass.

  • A transition zone of wooded steppes raises poleward due to an increase in precipitation
  • In this zone, some conifers appear but these are very scattered and few in number
  • The steppe grass is shorter and sparser towards the equator until it merges into the desert with thorny scrub

  • Agricultural developments of Steppe:
  • The grasslands have been plowed up for extensive mechanized wheat cultivation. They are known as granaries of the world. Besides wheat, maize is also cultivated increasingly, mainly in warmer and wetter areas.

  • The farms are very long and due to less attention and high mechanization, the average yield per acre is low
  • However, the average yield per man is very high
  • The grasslands of the mid-latitudes are the greatest exporters of wheat in the world
  • More nutritious lucerne and alfalfa grass have replaced the tufted grasses for cattle and ship rearing
  • The natural conditions suit animal farming
  • With the introduction of more nutritious grass and refrigerated ships, temperate grasslands become major pastoral regions. They export large quantities of beef, mutton, wool, milk, butter, cheese, and other dairy products.

  • Pampa is the lead exporter of Beef
  • Australia is the world's leading exporter of wool

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