The Köppen climate classification system categorizes climate zones throughout the world based on local vegetation. Wladimir Köppen, a German botanist and climatologist, first developed this system at the end of the 19th century, basing it on the earlier biome research conducted by scientists. These scientists learned that vegetation and climate are intricately linked. The vegetation that grows in a region is dependent on the temperature and precipitation there, which are two key factors of climate. Areas with more rainfall and higher temperatures contain more forests while regions with less rainfall tend to be deserts. The Köppen climate classification system has been enhanced and modified several times since it was first published.

The system divides the world into five climate zones based on criteria, usually temperature, which allows for different vegetation growth. Köppen’s map used different colors and shades to represent the different climate zones of the world. While most of the zones are organized based on the temperature of a region, Zone B focuses on the aridity of a region. The zones are as follows:

Zone A: tropical or equatorial zone (represented by blue colors on most maps)

Zone B: arid or dry zone (represented by red, pink, and orange colors on most maps)

Zone C: warm/mild temperate zone (represented by green colors on most maps)

Zone D: continental zone (represented by purple, violet, and light blue colors on most maps)

Zone E: polar zone (represented by gray colors on most maps)

Each zone is further subdivided based on temperature or dryness. For example, Zone A has three subdivisions: Zone Af has no dry season, Zone Am has a short dry season, and Zone Aw has a winter dry season. Zone B is divided into categories related to regions such as hot, arid deserts (Zone BWh); cold, arid deserts (Zone BWk); hot, arid steppes (Zone BSh); and cold, arid steppes (Zone BSk). Climate zones C and D are broken into categories based on when the dry seasons occur in the zones, as well as the coldness of the summer or the warmth of the winter. Zone E climates are separated into tundra regions (Zone ET) or snow and ice regions (Zone EF). Additionally, some modern revisions to the system include a sixth region, known as Zone H. This represents a highland climate located at mountainous elevations.

Köppen’s classification maps are still used by scientists and climatologists to this day. Although he published his first map in the early 1900s, Köppen continued to update it until his death in 1940. Subsequent climatologists, including Rudolf Geiger, updated versions of this map, which often include Geiger’s name as well. At the time of writing, a recent revision to this map was published in 2018.

 

Köppen Climate Classification System

The Köppen-Geiger system uses colors and shades to classify the world into five climate zones based on criteria like temperature, which allows for different vegetation growth.

arid
Adjective

dry.

aridity
Noun

insufficient rainfall levels for agriculture

botanist
Noun

person who studies plants.

climate
Noun

all weather conditions for a given location over a period of time.

climatologist
Noun

person who studies long-term patterns in weather.

continental
Adjective

of, relating to, or characteristic of a continent

Noun

area of land that receives no more than 25 centimeters (10 inches) of precipitation a year.

polar
Adjective

having to do with the North and/or South Pole.

Noun

all forms in which water falls to Earth from the atmosphere.

Noun

dry, flat grassland with no trees and a cool climate.

Noun

degree of hotness or coldness measured by a thermometer with a numerical scale.

tundra
Noun

cold, treeless region in Arctic and Antarctic climates.

vegetation
Noun

all the plant life of a specific place.

Wladimir Koppen
Noun

(1846-1940) Russian-German geographer and climatologist.