An oceanic climate, also known as a marine climate, is the temperate climate sub-type in Köppen classification represented as Cfb, typical of west coasts in higher middle latitudes of continents, generally featuring cool summers and mild winters (for their latitude), with a relatively narrow annual temperature range and few extremes of temperature. Oceanic climates can be found in both hemispheres generally between 45 and 63 latitude, most notably in northwestern Europe, northwestern America, as well as New Zealand. Other varieties of climates usually classified together with these include subtropical highland climates, represented as Cwb or Cfb, and subpolar oceanic or cold subtropical highland climates, represented as Cfc or Cwc. Subtropical highland climates occur in some mountainous parts of the subtropics or tropics, some of which have monsoon influence, while their cold variants and subpolar oceanic climates occur near polar or tundra regions.
Locations with oceanic climates tend to feature frequent cloudy conditions with precipitation, low hanging clouds, and frequent fronts and storms. Thunderstorms are normally few, since strong daytime heating and hot and cold air masses meet infrequently in the regions, but are more common in subtropical highland climates where these air masses meet more frequently due to the influence of hotter weather in the subtropics or tropics, especially in monsoon-influenced climates. In most areas with an oceanic climate, precipitation comes in the form of rain for the majority of the year. Most oceanic climate zones, or at least a part of them, however, experience at least one snowfall per year. Snowfall is more frequent and commonplace in the subpolar oceanic climates due to the colder weather in those locations.
Overall temperature characteristics of the oceanic climates feature cool temperatures and infrequent extremes of temperature. In the Köppen climate classification, oceanic climates have a mean temperature of 0 °C (32 °F) or higher (or −3 °C (27 °F) or higher) in the coldest month, compared to continental climates where the coldest month has a mean temperature of below 0 °C (32 °F) (or −3 °C (27 °F)) in the coldest month. Summers are warm but not hot, with the warmest month having a mean temperature below 22 °C (72 °F). Poleward of the latter is a subtype of it and is the subpolar oceanic climate (Köppen Cfc), with long but relatively mild (for their latitude) winters and cool and short summers (average temperatures of at least 10 °C (50 °F) for one to three months). Examples of this climate include parts of coastal Iceland, the coast of Norway north of Bodø, the Scottish Highlands, the mountains of Vancouver Island, and Haida Gwaii in Canada, in the Northern Hemisphere and extreme southern Chile in the Southern Hemisphere (examples include Punta Arenas), the Tasmanian Central Highlands, and parts of New Zealand.
Oceanic climates are not necessarily found in coastal locations on the aforementioned parallels; however, in most cases oceanic climates parallel higher middle latitude oceans.[clarification needed] The polar jet stream, which moves in a west to east direction across the middle latitudes, advances low pressure systems, storms, and fronts. In coastal areas of the higher middle latitudes (45–60° latitude), the prevailing onshore flow creates the basic structure of most oceanic climates. Oceanic climates are a product and reflection of the cool ocean adjacent to them. In the autumn, winter, and early spring, when the polar jet stream is most active, the frequent passing of marine weather systems creates the frequent fog, cloudy skies, and light drizzle often associated with oceanic climates. In summer, high pressure often pushes the prevailing westerlies north of many oceanic climates, often creating a drier summer climate (for example in the northwest coast of North America, bathed by the Pacific Ocean).
The North Atlantic Gulf Stream, a tropical oceanic current that passes north of the Caribbean and up the East Coast of the United States to North Carolina, then heads east-northeast to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, is thought to greatly modify the climate of northwest Europe. As a result of the North Atlantic Current, west coast areas located in high latitudes like Ireland, the UK, and Norway have much milder winters (for their latitude) than would otherwise be the case. The lowland attributes of western Europe also help drive marine air masses into continental areas, enabling cities such as Dresden, Prague, and Vienna to have maritime climates in spite of being located well inland from the ocean.
Examples of oceanic climates are found in Glasgow, London, Bergen, Amsterdam, Dublin, Berlin, Hamburg, Vienna, Bilbao, Oviedo, Biarritz, A Coruña, Bayonne, Zürich, Copenhagen, Prague, Skagen, and Paris. With decreasing distance to the Mediterranean Sea, the oceanic climate of northwest Europe gradually changes to the subtropical dry-summer or Mediterranean climate of southern Europe. The line between Oceanic and Continental climates in Europe runs in a generally west to east direction. For example, western Germany is more impacted by milder Atlantic air masses than is eastern Germany. Thus, winters across Europe become colder to the east, and (in some locations) summers become hotter. The line between oceanic Europe and Mediterranean Europe normally runs north to south and is related to changes in precipitation patterns and differences to seasonal temperatures.
The only noteworthy area of maritime climate at or near sea-level within Africa is in South Africa from Mossel Bay on the Western Cape coast to Plettenberg Bay (the Garden Route), with additional pockets of this climate inland of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal coast. It is usually warm most of the year with no pronounced rainy season, but slightly more rain in autumn and spring. The Tristan da Cunha archipelago in the South Atlantic also has an oceanic climate.
The oceanic climate is prevalent in the more southerly parts of Oceania. A mild maritime climate is in existence in New Zealand. It occurs in a few areas of Australia, namely in the southeast, although average high temperatures during summers there tend to be higher and the summers drier than is typical of oceanic climates, with summer maxima sometimes exceeding 40 °C (104 °F). The climate is found in Tasmania, southern half of Victoria and southeastern New South Wales (southwards from Wollongong).
The coastal part of northwestern Turkey, from northern Istanbul to around Inebolu, features this climate. Additionally parts of the northeastern coast of Honshu, such as Mutsu, Aomori in Japan, feature this climate.
Temperate oceanic climates, also known as "marine mild winter" climates or simply oceanic climates, are found either at middle latitudes. They are often found on or near the west coast of continents; hence another name for Cfb, "marine west coast climates". In addition to moderate temperatures year-round, one of the characteristics is the absence of a dry season. Except for western Europe, this type of climate is confined to narrow bands of territory, largely in mid or high latitudes, although it can appear in elevated areas of continental terrain in low latitudes, e.g. plateaus in the subtropics. It exists in both hemispheres between 35° and 60°: at low altitudes between Mediterranean, humid continental, and subarctic climates.
Western sea breezes ease temperatures and moderates the winter, especially if warm sea currents are present, and cause cloudy weather to predominate. Precipitation is constant, especially in colder months, when temperatures are warmer than elsewhere at comparable latitudes. This climate can occur farther inland if no mountain ranges are present or nearby. As this climate causes sufficient moisture year-round without permitting deep snow cover, vegetation typically prospers in this climate. Deciduous trees are predominant in this climate region. However, conifers such as spruce, pine, and cedar are also common in few areas, and fruits such as apples, pears, and grapes can often be cultivated here.
In the hottest month, the average temperature is below 22 °C (72 °F), and at least four months feature average temperatures higher than 10 °C (50 °F). The average temperature of the coldest month must not be colder than −3–0 °C (27–32 °F), or the climate will be classified as continental. The average temperature variations in the year are between 10–15 °C (50–59 °F), with average annual temperatures between 6–13 °C (43–55 °F). Rain values can vary from 50–500 cm (20–197 in), depending on whether mountains cause orographic precipitation. Frontal cyclones can be common in marine west coast regions, with some areas experiencing more than 150 rainy days annually, but strong storms are rare.
The subtropical highland climate is a climate variety often grouped together with oceanic climates which exists in some mountainous or elevated portions of the world in either the subtropics or tropics. Despite the latitude, the higher elevations of these regions mean that the climate shares characteristics with oceanic climates.
Subtropical highland climates with uniform rainfall (Cfb) usually have rainfall spread relatively evenly throughout the year, similar to other oceanic climates but unlike these climates, they have a high diurnal temperature variation and low humidity, owing to their inland location and relatively high elevation. Subtropical highland climates with monsoon influence (Cwb), have distinctive wet summers and dry winters.
In locations outside the tropics, other than the drying trend in the winter, subtropical highland climates tend to be essentially identical to an oceanic climate, with mild summers and noticeably cooler winters, plus, in some instances, some snowfall. In the tropics, a subtropical highland climate typically features spring-like weather year-round[further explanation needed]. Temperatures there remain relatively constant throughout the year and snowfall is seldom seen due to warmer winters than most oceanic climates.
Areas with this climate feature monthly averages below 22 °C (72 °F) but above −3 °C (27 °F) (or 0 °C (32 °F) using American standards). At least one month's average temperature is below 18 °C (64 °F). Without their elevation, many of these regions would likely feature either humid subtropical or tropical climates.
Areas with subpolar oceanic climates feature an oceanic climate but are usually located closer to polar regions, with long but relatively mild winters and short, cool summers. As a result of their location, these regions tend to be on the cool end of oceanic climates, approaching to polar regions. Snowfall tends to be more common here than in other oceanic climates. Subpolar oceanic climates are less prone to temperature extremes than subarctic climates or continental climates, featuring milder winters than these climates. Subpolar oceanic climates feature only one to three months of average monthly temperatures that are at least 10 °C (50 °F). As with oceanic climates, none of its average monthly temperatures fall below -3.0 °C (26.6 °F) or 0 °C depending on the isotherm used. Typically, these areas in the warmest month experience daytime maximum temperatures below 17 °C (63 °F), while the coldest month features highs near or slightly above freezing and lows just below freezing while keeping the average warm enough. It typically carries a Cfc designation, though very small areas in Argentina and Chile have summers sufficiently short to be Cwc with fewer than four months over 10 °C (50 °F).
This variant of an oceanic climate is found in parts of coastal Iceland, the Faroe Islands, upland/mountainous parts of Scotland and Northern England, northwestern coastal areas of Norway (most of Lofoten, Vesterålen, warmest part of Tromsø reaching to 71°N on some islands), uplands/highlands in western Norway, the Aleutian Islands of Alaska and northern parts of the Alaskan Panhandle, the southwest of Argentina and Chile, and a few highland areas of Tasmania, and the Australian and Southern Alps. This type of climate is even found in very remote parts of the New Guinea Highlands. The classification used for this regime is Cfc. In the most marine of those areas affected by this regime, temperatures above 20 °C (68 °F) are extreme weather events, even in the midst of summer. Temperatures above 30 °C (86 °F) have been recorded on rare occasions in some areas of this climate, and in winter temperatures down to −20 °C (−4 °F) have seldom been recorded in some areas.
Small areas in Yunnan, Sichuan and parts of Bolivia and Peru have summers sufficiently short to be Cwc with fewer than four months over 10 °C (50 °F). However, due to the high altitudes at these locations, these areas feature Cwc climates. This is the cold variant of the monsoon-influenced subtropical highland climate. El Alto, Bolivia, is one of the few confirmed towns that features this variation of the subtropical highland climate.
^Tapper, Andrew; Tapper, Nigel (1996). Gray, Kathleen (ed.). The weather and climate of Australia and New Zealand (First ed.). Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press. p. 300. ISBN978-0-19-553393-4.