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In geography, temperate latitudes of the globe lie between the tropics and the polar circles. The changes in these regions between summer and winter are generally subtle: warm or cool, rather than extreme hot or cold. However, a temperate climate can have very unpredictable weather.

World map with temperate zones highlighted in red

The north temperate zone extends from the Tropic of Cancer (at about 23.5 degrees north latitude,) to the Arctic Circle (at approximately 66.5 degrees north latitude.) The south temperate zone extends from the Tropic of Capricorn (at approximately 23.5 degrees south latitude,) to the Antarctic Circle (at approximately 66.5 degrees south latitude.)

Within these borders there are many climate types, which are generally grouped into two categories: continental and maritime.

The maritime climate is affected by the oceans, which help to sustain somewhat stable temperatures throughout the year. In temperate zones the prevailing winds are from the west, thus the western edge of temperate continents most commonly experience this maritime climate. Such regions include Western Europe, especially in Ireland and the UK; and western North America at latitudes between 40° and 60° north (65°N in Europe).

The continental climate is usually situated inland, with warmer summers and colder winters. Heat loss and reception are aided by extensive land mass. In North America, the Rocky Mountains act as a climate barrier to the maritime air blowing from the west, creating a continental climate to the east. In Europe, the maritime climate is able to stabilize inland temperature, because the major mountain range - the Alps - is oriented east-west.

The majority of the world's human population resides in temperate zones, especially in the northern hemisphere.

For the history of the term, see geographical zone

See also

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