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Climate of the Alps

The climate of the Alps is the climate, or average weather conditions over a long time, of the central Alpine region of Europe. It is well known that as we rise from sea level into the upper regions of the atmosphere the temperature decreases. The effect of mountain chains on prevailing winds is to carry warm air belonging to the lower region into an upper zone, where it expands in volume at the cost of a proportionate loss of heat, often accompanied by the precipitation of moisture in the form of snow or rain.

The position of the Alps about the centre of the European continent has profoundly modified the climate of all the surrounding regions. The accumulation of vast masses of snow, which have gradually been converted into permanent glaciers, maintains a gradation of very different climates within the narrow space that intervenes between the foot of the mountains and their upper ridges; it cools the breezes that are wafted to the plains on either side, but its most important function is to regulate the water supply[?] of the large region which is traversed by the streams of the Alps. Nearly all the moisture that is precipitated during six or seven months is stored in the form of snow, and is gradually diffused in the course of the succeeding summer; even in the hottest and driest seasons the reserves accumulated during a long preceding period of years in the form of glaciers are available to maintain the regular flow of the greater streams. Nor is this all; the lakes that fill several of the main valleys on the southern side of the Alps are somewhat above the level of the plains of Lombardy and Venetia[?], and afford an inexhaustible supply of water, which, from a remote period, has been used for that system of irrigation to which they owe their proverbial fertility.

Six regions or zones, which are best distinguished by their characteristic vegetation, are found in the Alps. It is an error to suppose that these are indicated by absolute height above sea level. Local conditions of exposure to the Sun, protection from cold winds, or the reverse, are of primary importance in determining the climate and the corresponding vegetation.

Regions of the Alps



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