Features of Maritime Climate

Maritime climate, also known as oceanic climate, exists along the west coasts at the middle latitudes of all the world’s continents as well as southeastern Australia. More specifically, it is found along a narrow strip of coastal Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and southern Alaska in North America. Similarly, it is found along coastal Chile in South America. Moreover, the marine west coast climate expands further inland into northwest Europe than in North America due to the distribution of mountains.

The circulation of the climate is to a great extent subjective to the orientation of mountain systems in the Americas and Europe. For instance, in North and South America, mountains extend north-south, whereas in Europe they tend to run more west to east. The north-south setting acts as barrier to oceanic air masses (in the Westerlies) forcing them to rise and cool generating a cloudy, rainy environment along the coast. In Europe, the oceanic air masses can infiltrate further inland, moderating the climate of a much larger region. Finally, this climate is also found on the southeast coast of Australia and New Zealand. Its location puts it in the path of westerly winds from the ocean that carry clouds, much precipitation, and mild temperatures.

This type of climate is not marked by very dry summers as in the Mediterranean climate. Due to the precipitation which comes from the ocean that surrounds it, it lacks a dry season. It is distinguished by a more constricted annual range of temperature. Thus, the winters are cool but not very cold.  The mild temperatures are directly due to the flowing in of oceanic air all year round.

The ocean acts as a moderator of air temperatures, therefore, determining the land temperatures. The North Atlantic’s warm ocean drifts, for example, affect the climate of Northwestern Europe. It is understandable then that as one moves away from the coast, the temperature range will increase. In areas of maritime climate, precipitation (any form of water fall) is common.

Discernible in this climate are also heavy cloud cover and humidity.  When polar air masses are forced to rise up the western slopes, this creates considerable cloud cover and precipitation.  Another feature of maritime climate is cyclonic activity. This is rapid inwards circulation of masses of air around a low-pressure center (cyclonic air masses flow counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere).  

Cyclonic storms cause long-drawn-out phases of rain, drizzle or fog. In some areas the precipitation is such in a year that can contest the rainy tropics. Hence the lush green lands of such areas that appease the eye and make up for the lack of prolonged sunlight which is true of the Mediterranean climate.