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Climate Diagrams

Climate diagrams are brief summaries of average climatic variables and their time course.

They have proven useful for a wide range of sciences, industry, and teaching. In bio- and geosciences, they are used as an instrument to show the relationships between soil, vegetation, and climate. In agronomic sciences, they are used to indicate the range for certain crops. They are useful for planning and design. They indicate optimal travel schedules for the tourist industries.

The diagrams display monthly averages for temperature and precipitation over a year. Each tic mark along the horizontal line (abscissa) indicates a month. The diagrams start with January in the left corner of the diagram for the northern hemisphere and with July for the southern hemisphere respectively. Thus, the astronomic summer is always shown in the middle of the diagram. 20 mm of monthly precipitation (right ordinate) equal 10°C average temperature (left ordinate). When the precipitation curve undercuts the temperature curve, the area in between them is dotted (every 2 mm) indicating dry season. When the precipitation curve supercedes the temperature curve, vertical lines are plotted for each month (with tic marks every 2 mm) indicating moist season. A very important ecological variable is frost. The diagram shows daily average minimum temperatures below zero in black bars below the horizontal line.

All diagrams are designed in a uniform pattern, illustrated by the following sample:
1 Country name, station location and elevation, station name 

2 Period of observation of temperature (77 years) and precipitation (55 years)

3 Annual average of temperature and annual precipitation sum 

4 (red) Temperature curve 

5 (blue) Precipitation time series 

6 Indication of frost periods 

7 Mean daily max. temperature of the warmest month

8 Mean daily min. temperature of the coldest month


The climate diagram world atlas compiled by Walter and Lieth (1957-1966) has been in use by geographers, phytosociologists, agronomists, and foresters. The original atlas was published in three large editions and has been sold out for over 20 years. Along with the development of computer capacities in the scientific laboratories, first attempts to construct diagrams through computer routines were undertaken by Ostendorf et al. (1981, 1982). The further step towards that goal was taken by H. Lieth and S. Riediger, the result of which was published in Lieth (1998).  The Global Historical Climatology Network version 2 temperature database was released in May 1997 by the National Climatic Data Center (Peterson 1997).  The data of 3,400 stations were used for the diagrams available in the CD-Series: Climate and Biosphere, 1999, H. Lieth, ISSN 0936-3120, Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, ISBN 90.5782.031.5. These diagrams are used in ZooLex.

The following examples will help you read the diagrams. They are from Walter Heinrich and Lieth Helmut, Klimadiagram-Weltatlas, VEB Gustav Fischer Verlag, Jena, 1967:

A cartogram was made by Walter and Lieth separating regions with similar climate. The pricipal climatic types of the world are given below. The climate diagrams look similar for each of the climatic types.

Climatic Types and Examples: Typical Climate Diagrams:
I equatorial, humid
Andagoya in Colombia
Lomie in Camerun
Cairns in Australia
II tropical, summer rains
Parana in Brazil
Johannesburg in South Africa
Darwin in Australia
III subtropical, hot and arid
Lima in Peru
Swakopmund in Southwest Africa
IV mediterranean, winter rains
Valparaiso in Chile
Capetown in South Africa
Lisboa in Portugal
V warm-temperate, humid
Montevideao in Uruguay
East London in South Africa
Rize in Northern Anatolia
VI humid, with cold seasons
Kristiansand in Norway
Puerto Aisen in Chile
Topeka in the United States
VII arid, with cold seasons
Turkestan in Central Asia
Sarmiento in Argentina
Ely in the United States
VIII boreal
Olekminsk in Siberia
Moscow in Central Russia
Stockholm in Sweden
IX arctic
Karskije Vorota in Northern Russia
Mehamn in Norway
Ushuaia in Argentina
X mountain areas in other regions
Nuwara Eliya in Ceylon
Cedres in Libanon
Ollague in Chile

Revised 2017-05-17
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