Gardening

High Mountain Climate: [Characteristics, Flora, Fauna and Adaptability]

Important points about the High Mountain Climate:

  • What is? Specialists maintain that there is not just one mountain climate, but several whose characteristics depend on each place. The mountain climate is low in winter and mild in summer.
  • Where it is located? The high mountain classification varies by country. In Spain they could be those that are 2,000 or 2,500 meters above sea level. But in Mexico, a mountain will be alpine above 4,000 meters above sea level.
  • How is the flora? The flora is a variant of the tundra climate, a polar desert characterized by extremely cold weather, strong winds and low rainfall, nutrient-poor soil, and low biological diversity.
  • How is the wildlife? We find bears, goats, chamois, salamanders, wolves, mountain goats, deer, moorland cats and different birds, such as falcons, vultures, alpine sparrows and ptarmigan.
  • How long is the day and night? The days are shorter, about 9 hours in which the sun hardly heats, as opposed to 12 hours in other areas with more benevolent climates. The nights are longer, especially in those areas where the sun is not noticeable.
  • Can human beings live in this climate? In extreme conditions, it is impossible for human beings to live in the high mountain climate, because human skin is not made to withstand snowfall as it occurs at high altitudes.

What is high mountain climate?

Specialists maintain that there is not just one mountain climate, but several whose characteristics depend on each place.

But, as the traditional current speaks of a single mountain climate, we will do so for a better explanation. The mountain climate is low in winter and mild in summer.

However, as we ascend we will find thick layers of snow, as it happens in the mountains characteristic of this type of biome above 500 meters above the level of the growth line of the trees in the region where they are found.

The emblematic mountains of this climate are Everest, the highest mountain in the world, the Pyrenees, Sierra Nevada, the peaks of Europe, and the Andes Mountains in South America, among many other high peaks characterized by the presence of cold winters, with frost, with temperatures below zero, where life is almost impossible.

In the mountains there are no high temperatures, and the summers are short, cool, without any heat, contrary to what happens in the plains. The mountain climate gets colder as you go up, because 1°C is lost every 100 meters, which gives us an idea of ​​what happens when the mountain is more than 2,000 meters above sea level.

Upward, the saturation point is produced, characterized by the so-called orographic rains, which are abundant and unbearable for human beings.

As is customary, we will refer to these regions as alpine zones. This climate, already cold in itself, can have areas with a climate of higher temperatures than those known to all of us, depending on the geographical location in which the mountain is located.

Where is the high mountain climate located geographically?

High mountain areas are found in many parts of the world, developing diverse ecosystems, both in flora and fauna, that have adapted to abundant rainfall or warmer climates where rain is not so common.

High mountain classification varies by country; we do take into account that in Spain they could be those that are 2,000 or 2,500 meters above sea level.

But in Mexico a mountain will be alpine above 4,000 meters above sea level and in Patagonia, between Argentina and Chile, it will be 1,700 meters above sea level, so there is no specific altitude in this regard.

Among the most important mountainous elevations we have the Sierra Nevada mountains, in the United States; the Cordillera de los Andes, from Venezuela to Chile; the Himalayas, in Asia, and the mountainous variety of Tibet.

In Spain, the mountain climate can be understood as the variant of the Atlantic and Mediterranean climates of the territory. In deserts, the high mountains receive few levels of water due to the absence of precipitation, but in temperate zones they can have seasons marked by constant temperature changes.

In mountains north or south of the Earth’s equator, vegetation may grow on only one side of the mountain. On the other side, where the slopes are very steep, there is no sunlight, so no vegetation grows.

What characteristics does the high mountain climate have?

The main characteristic of the mountain climate is being above 500-1,000 meters above sea level, which is the height where the lack of oxygen is noticeable.

High mountain classification varies by country; we do take into account that in Spain they could be those that are 2,000 or 2,500 meters above sea level.

But in Mexico a mountain will be alpine above 4,000 meters above sea level and in Patagonia, between Argentina and Chile, it will be 1,700 meters above sea level, so there is no specific altitude in this regard.

Where there is uniformity of criteria is in the temperature recorded by the mountain climate, because they all have very cold winters with temperatures below 0°C, with abundant snowfall.

Summers, as has been said, are mild, without heat, although it should be noted that the sunstroke in the high mountains is more severe than in the plains, as a result of the air masses and fronts that affect the climate in these areas.

The mountain climate also has a different wind regime. There we find the so-called catabatic winds, which descend from the top of the mountain towards the valley, and the anabatic ones, which have the opposite effect, that is, they ascend from the valley to the top.

What flora predominates in the high mountain climate?

The flora of this climate has different characteristics from other climates, since it is presented in a staggered way, in floors.

The flora is a variant of the tundra climate, a polar desert characterized by extremely cold weather, strong winds and little rainfall, nutrient-poor soil, and low biological diversity.

In the mountain climate, the forest formations are below and as we ascend we find bushes, grass meadows; higher up, moss, and finally, no vegetation at all, due to snowfall.

The mountains develop topoclimates, which can affect the summit, the slope or the valley, which generates a characteristic distribution of the vegetation; and microclimates, which is a local climate with characteristics different from those of the area where it is located.

In the high mountains of the northern hemisphere, a large number of coniferous trees develop, but these are found in the lower parts of the mountain; they are pines, firs, and larches that grow alongside smaller plants, such as heather and poppies.

Already in the alpine growth zone, different types of plants can develop, such as grasslands, bogs, heaths and the small vegetation that grows between the cracks in the ground, these being very similar in all the mountains of the northern hemisphere, regardless of their location. with respect to the equator.

At that height it is impossible to get trees, because the climatic conditions do not allow their growth.

What fauna predominates in the high mountain climate?

The fauna is less varied than the flora, because we must understand that in this climate only species that have the capacity to withstand low temperatures will survive, which there are, and many.

Especially those that change their coat to adapt to weather conditions; thick fur or plumage, thick skin or layer of fat to protect themselves from the intense cold and overcome the obstacle of rocks and steep slopes, abysses and frozen peaks.

We find bears, goats, chamois, fire salamanders, wolves, mountain goats, deer, moorland cats and different birds such as falcons, vultures, alpine sparrows and ptarmigan, which have large brown feathers in the summer and white in winter; the alpine accentor, the short-legged chough, the red rock, are other striking birds.

In the Andean Cordillera the most emblematic bird is the condor. There are animals that hibernate on the high slopes of the mountains, enduring the climatic conditions to which they have adapted.

In the Spanish region we find the golden eagle and poisonous snakes such as the aspid viper and amphibians such as the Pyrenean newt and the grass frog.

How long are the days and nights in the high mountain climate?

The days and nights are totally different in the high mountains than in the valley and, of course, in the cities.

The days are shorter, about nine hours in which the sun barely warms, as opposed to 12 hours in other areas with more benevolent climates.

In the same sense, the nights are longer, especially in those areas where the sun is not noticeable in the mountains surrounding the equator. In the mountains of Alaska there are days of sunshine every six months, and to that same extent, there are six months of shadows.

Can human beings live in the high mountain climate?

As we have explained, in extreme conditions it is impossible for human beings to live in the high mountain climate, because human skin is not made to withstand snowfall as it occurs at heights.

On Everest, for example, there is not the slightest possibility of human life, and for this reason, many attempts to climb have ended with tragedies for climbers, although the most daring have rarely succeeded.

But there are mountain areas where human beings have developed adaptive strategies to live in these environments and, thus, develop different forms of life, depending on their location, such as the mountainous area of ​​California, in the United States, and Kilimanjaro in Africa, which are warm climate ecosystems.

There is also life in the Hokkaido mountains in Japan, and the high mountains of New Guinea and New Zealand.

Bibliographic references

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