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Steppe Climate (Temperate Grassland Climate)
Steppe Climate or Temperate Continental Climate or Temperate Grassland Climate
- They lie in the interiors of the continents.
- Lie in the Westerly wind belt [mid-latitudes or temperate region].
- Grasslands are practically treeless due to continentiality [deep within the interiors of the continents where rain bearing winds don’t reach].
- In Eurasia, they are called the Steppes, and stretch eastwards from the shores of the Black Sea to the foothills of the Altai Mountains. [2,000 miles long belt].
Name of the Temperate Grassland
|Pustaz||Hungary and surrounding regions|
|Prairies||North America [between the foothills of the Rockies and the Great Lakes]|
|Pampas||Argentina and Uruguay [Rain-shadow effect]|
|Bush-veld (more tropical)||Northern South Africa|
|High Veld (more temperate)||Southern South Africa|
|Downs||Australia: Murray-Darling basin of southern Australia|
- Climate is continental with extremes of temperature.
- Temperatures vary greatly between summer and winter.
- The summers are hot and the winters are cold.
- Summers are very warm, over 18 – 20° C.
- The steppe type of climate in the southern hemisphere is never severe.
- The average rainfall may be taken as about 45 cm, but this varies according to location from 25 cm to 75 cm.
- The heaviest rain comes in June and July (late spring and early summer).
- Most of the winter months have about an 2.5 cm of precipitation, brought by the occasional depressions of the Westerlies and coming in the form of snow.
- The maritime influence in the southern hemisphere causes more rainfall.
Chinook: Local winds in Steppe regions
- On the eastern slopes of the Rockies in Canada and U.S.A. a local wind, similar to the Fohn in Switzerland, called the Chinook, comes in a south-westerly direction to the Prairies and has a considerable effect on the local pastures.
- It actually comes with the depressions in winter or early spring from the Pacific coast ascending the Rockies and then descending to the Prairies [katabatic wind].
- It is a hot wind and may raise the temperature by 5° C within a matter of 20 minutes.
- It melts the snow-covered pastures and animals can be driven out of doors to graze in the open fields. The agricultural year is thus accelerated.
- Local farmers welcome the Chinook for frequent. Chinooks [Snow eaters] mean mild winters.
[Other important Local Winds in different regions: Loo, Mistral, Sirocco, Foehn etc.]
Natural Vegetation of Steppe Climate
- Greatest difference from the tropical savanna is that steppes are practically treeless and the grasses are much shorter.
- Grasses are tall, fresh and nutritious. This is typical of the grass of the wheat-lands in North America, the rich black earth or chernozem areas of Russian Ukraine and the better watered areas of the Asiatic Steppes.
- Where the rainfall is light or unreliable, or the soil is poor, as in the continental interiors of Asia the short steppe type of grass prevails.
- The grasses are not only shorter but also wiry [lean, tough] and sparse [thinly dispersed or scattered].
- These areas are less suitable for arable farming and are used for some form of ranching as in the High Plains of U.S.A.
- The growth of grasses is not abruptly checked by summer droughts or winter cold.
- Polewards, an increase in precipitation gives rise to a transitional zone of wooded steppes where some conifers gradually appear.
- In the cultivated regions, such as the wheat farms of the Prairies, double rows of trees are planted around the house to shield the occupants from the strong wind.
- Does not have much animal diversity.
- Horses are common in Asian Steppes.
Economic Development of Steppes
Wheat and Maize Cultivation
- Cultivation was unknown just before a century and the region was one of the most sparsely populated parts of the world.
- In recent years, the grasslands have been ploughed up for extensive, mechanized wheat cultivation and are now the ‘granaries of the world’ [Prairies].
- Besides wheat, maize is increasingly cultivated in the warmer and wetter areas.
- The tufted grasses have been replaced by the more nutritious Lucerne or alfalfa grass for cattle and sheep rearing.
- These temperate grasslands are now the leading ranching regions of the globe.
Nomadic herding in Asian Steppes
- This type of migratory animal grazing has almost disappeared from the major grasslands. The herders were wandering tribes e.g. the Kirghiz, and the Kazakhs.
- The harsh environment of the nomads, with long droughts and unreliable showers made the Kirghiz a tough and fearless people, and they long resisted subjugation by the Russians.
- Now, however, under the Communist regime they are being forced to settle down.
- The steppes have been made into huge collective farms and state farms for ranching or producing cereals.
Extensive mechanized wheat cultivation
- The temperate grasslands are ideal for extensive wheat cultivation.
- The level ness of the Steppes and other temperate grasslands all over the world makes ploughing and harvesting a comparatively easy job.
- In the Prairies, the Argentinian Pampas, the Ukrainian Steppes and the Downs of Australia, agriculture is completely mechanized.
- The natural conditions suit animal farming.
- With the development of refrigerated ships in the late nineteenth century, the temperate grasslands became major pastoral regions, exporting large quantities of beef, mutton, wool, hides.
- Milk, butter, cheese and other dairy products are also important in some parts of the North American grasslands.
Major Economic Activity
|Pustaz||Rich black soil
Abundant wheat production
Sugar from Sugar beet [Beta vulgaris, is a plant whose root contains a high concentration of sucrose]
Countries like Hungary, Ukraine, Romania etc.
|Pampas||Alfalfa: nutrient rich grass.
Ranching, cattle rearing; Dairy products
Extensive wheat producing region
Economy depends on wheat and beef export
|Downs and Canterbury||Sheep and Cattle rearing,
Merino sheep: wool production
Sheep and Cattle rearing
Compare and contrast tropical and temperate grasslands in respect of
- their seasonal responses to climatic changes
- their economic importance
For any three of them, give a reasoned account
- Asiatic Steppes: nomadic herding
- Canadian Prairies: spring wheat cultivation
- Argentine Pampas: beef cattle ranching
- S. African Veld: maize growing
- Australian Downs: sheep grazing
- When Chinooks are more frequent in the Prairies, the winters are milder.
Primary References: NCERT Geography, Certificate Physical and Human Geography [Amazon and Flipkart]
PMF IAS Geography Hardcopy: Physical (Released), Indian, World & Economic (Sometime in July 2023)
Download Environment Second Edition PDF. Hardcopy Available in Delhi, Amazon, Flipkart (Seller: Booksmania) & JioMart (Seller: Delhi Open Books)
Direct & Indirect Sources for Understanding the Earth’s Interior
Greenhouse Effect, Global Warming, Carbon Sequestration