Climate of Texas

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Koppen climate classification types of Texas. Texas Koppen.svg
Köppen climate classification types of Texas.
This image of Texas, obtained by astronauts aboard NASA's Gemini 4 spacecraft shows a large dark swath attributed to rainfall. Rain-Darkened Texas.jpg
This image of Texas, obtained by astronauts aboard NASA's Gemini 4 spacecraft shows a large dark swath attributed to rainfall.

Texas' weather varies widely, from arid in the west to humid in the east. The huge expanse of Texas encompasses several regions with distinctly different climates: Northern Plains, Trans-Pecos Region, Texas Hill Country, Piney Woods, and South Texas. Generally speaking, the part of Texas that lies to the east of Interstate 35 is subtropical, while the portion that lies to the west of Interstate 35 is arid desert.

Contents

Texas ranks first in tornado occurrence with an average of 139 per year. Tropical cyclones can affect the state, either from the Gulf of Mexico or from an overland trajectory originating in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Those originating from the Gulf of Mexico are more likely to strike the upper Texas coast than elsewhere. Significant floods have occurred across the state throughout history, both from tropical cyclones and from stalled weather fronts.

Characteristics by region

Northern area

Monthly normal high and low temperatures (°F) for various Northern Plains cities [1]
CityJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec

Abilene 55/3261/3769/4477/5285/6191/6995/7294/7187/6478/5465/4257/34
Amarillo 49/2354/2762/3471/4279/5287/6191/6589/6482/5672/4558/3250/24
Lubbock 52/2458/2966/3675/4583/5690/6492/6890/6683/5874/4762/3553/26
Midland 60/2966/3474/4182/4889/5894/6596/6894/6788/6180/5168/3961/31
San Angelo 58/2963/3471/4279/5086/5991/6695/7094/6888/6379/5167/3959/31
Wichita Falls 52/2958/3467/4176/4984/5992/6897/7296/7188/6477/5264/4054/31

The Northern Plains' climate is semi-arid and is prone to drought, annually receiving between 16 and 32 inches (810 mm) of precipitation, and average annual snowfall ranging between 15 and 30 inches, with the greatest snowfall amounts occurring in the Texas panhandle and areas near the border with New Mexico. During the summer, this area of state sees the most clear days. [2] Winter nights commonly see temperatures fall below the freezing mark, or 32 °F (0 °C). The wettest months of the year are April and May. [3] Tornadoes, caused by the convergence of westerly and southerly prevailing winds during the late spring, are common, making the region part of Tornado Alley. [4] Poor land management, drought, and high wind speeds can cause large dust storms, minimized in modern times by improved land-management practices, but most troublesome in the 1930s during the Dust Bowl period. [5] The panhandle region, farthest from the Gulf of Mexico, experiences colder winters than the other regions of Texas, where occasional wintertime Arctic blasts can cause temperatures to plunge to well below freezing and bring snowy conditions. [6]

International areas with comparable climate: Southern China; North Argentina; New South Wales, Australia.

Trans Pecos Region

The Trans-Pecos region, also known as Big Bend Country, is in the west-central and western parts of the state, consisting of the Chihuahuan Desert and isolated mountain ranges. During fall, winter, and spring, it experiences the most clear days statewide. [2] It is also the driest receiving an average annual rainfall of only 16 inches (410 mm) or less. Snowfall is rare at lower elevations, although the highest mountain peaks are prone to heavy snowfalls during winter. The arid climate is the main reason for desertification of the land, but overgrazing is slowly widening the land area of that desert. In the mountain areas one can see coniferous forests in a wetter and more temperate environment. The wettest months in this region occur during the summer. [3] Winds are strengthened as they are forced to push through canyons and valleys. In the flatter areas these winds are harvested into usable electricity.

International areas with comparable climate: Iraq; Iran; Sahel region in Africa

Hill Country

Monthly normal high and low temperatures (°F) for Hill Country cities [1]
CityJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec

Austin 60/4065/4473/5179/5885/6591/7195/7396/7390/6981/6070/4962/42
San Antonio 62/3967/4374/5080/5786/6691/7295/7495/7490/6982/5971/4964/41
Waco 57/3362/3870/4678/5384/6391/7096/7496/7390/6679/5768/4559/36

The Texas Hill Country, or central Texas is shaped by its many rivers and hills. The climate is semi-arid west of Brady through Junction to Rocksprings, but it is sub-humid east and south of that area; both areas have hot summers and mild winters with occasional cold spells. Humidity is high during the warm season, though afternoons especially further northwest can see a wind shift and drier air before Gulf air returns after sunset. The vegetation is both broadleaf evergreen and deciduous in the river valleys, and coniferous where there is greater elevation. Dry savannas, open woodlands, and shorter grasses dominate the northwest, while closed woodlands and moist savannas mix with taller grasses in the east and south. In a single year the region can receive up to 48 inches (1,200 mm) of precipitation, and flooding is common near rivers and in low-lying areas, while drier years might receive only 12 inches (300 mm) of precipitation; average annual precipitation ranges from 21 inches (530 mm) in western sections up to 35 inches (890 mm) in southeast. The wettest months of the year are April and May. [3]

International areas with comparable climate:Israel; Lebanon

Piney Woods

Monthly normal high and low temperatures (°F) for various Piney Woods locations [1]
CityJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec

Dallas 55/3661/4169/4977/5684/6592/7396/7796/7689/6979/5866/4757/39
Fort Worth 55/3161/3668/4476/5283/6191/6997/7296/7289/6579/5567/4458/35
Galveston 62/5064/5270/5875/6581/7287/7889/8089/7987/7680/6871/5964/52
Houston 63/4567/4874/5579/6186/6891/7494/7593/7589/7282/6273/5365/47
Port Arthur 61/4365/4672/5278/5984/6689/7292/7492/7388/6980/6071/5164/45

The Piney Woods is the eastern region of Texas and is within the humid subtropical climate zone. It receives the most rainfall; more than 60 inches (1,500 mm) annually in the far east. This is due to the gulf currents that carry humid air to the region, where it condenses and precipitates out in the vicinity of sea breeze fronts as well as when extratropical cyclones move by. While coastal sections see the most cloudy days statewide and year-round, northern sections see the most clear days during the summer. [2] The wettest months of the year are April and May. [3] The area is prone to severe thunderstorms and tornadoes when the proper conditions exist, generally in the springtime. Hurricanes also strike the region, the most disastrous of which was the Galveston Hurricane of 1900. [10] More recently Hurricane Rita pummeled the Golden Triangle of southeast Texas. [11] The higher humidity of the region amplifies the feeling of heat during the summer. During winter and spring along the immediate coast, temperatures are kept cool by relatively cool gulf waters. Dense advection fog can form when warm air moves over the cool shelf waters during February and March, stopping ship traffic for days.

International areas with comparable climate: Taiwan; Philippines; much of the Southern parts of Queensland, Australia

South

Monthly normal high and low temperatures (°F) for southern Texas cities [1]
CityJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec

Brownsville 69/5072/5378/5982/6587/7291/7592/7593/7589/7384/6677/5970/52
Corpus Christi 66/4670/4976/5681/6286/6990/7493/7493/7590/7284/6475/5568/48
Del Rio 63/4068/4476/5283/5989/6794/7296/7496/7491/6982/6171/4963/41
Laredo 68/4473/4882/5689/6395/70100/74102/7599/7593/7186/6376/5368/45
Victoria 63/4467/4773/5479/6085/6890/7393/7594/7590/7083/6273/5265/45

The region of South Texas includes the semiarid ranch country and the wetter Rio Grande Valley. Considered to be the southernmost tip of the American Great Plains region, the inland region has rainfall that is similar to that of the Northern Plains. The coastal areas are nearly warm most of the year due to currents of the Gulf of Mexico. Summers are hot and humid. Rain in the coastal region is more abundant than in the inland region, and subtropical forests line the Rio Grande. The wettest months of the year are April and May in western areas, but approaching the Gulf Coast, September becomes the year's wettest month on average. This owes to the threat from tropical weather systems, including hurricanes, which can bring torrential rains of 5-10+ inches in one or two days. The resulting September monthly rainfall maximum prevails, for example, at Corpus Christi, South Padre Island and Brownsville. [3] Inland, where it is drier, ranches dominate the landscape, characterized by thick spiny brush and grasslands. The winters in the inland region are variable, but usually mild. Snow is a rare occurrence due to the lack of humidity in winter, and the summers are for the most part hot and dry, but at times can be humid when winds come off the Gulf of Mexico. Tornadoes can occur in this region, but are less frequent than in other parts of the state.

The southernmost part of the state falls just within the tropical climate classification. Occasional years of above average temperatures result in an abundance of tropical flora in the lower Rio Grande Valley, typical of a Tropical savanna climate.

International areas with comparable climate: India; Vietnam; Thailand

Cold and snow

2004 Christmas Eve Snowstorm in South Texas Palm Trees and Snow.jpg
2004 Christmas Eve Snowstorm in South Texas

Northern and western sections of the state average snowfall annually due to their colder average readings each winter. For one week in February 1956, a snow storm of historic proportions struck northern Texas. The maximum amount measured was 61 inches (150 cm) at Vega with Plainview receiving 24 inches (61 cm) in one day. [12] El Paso, in Far West Texas, received 22.4 in (57 cm) of snow during a 24-hour period December 13–14, 1987. [13] For central and southern sections, snowfall is considerably more unusual. In February 1895, a large area of southeastern Texas received over 12 inches (30 cm) of snow, with peak amounts near 30 inches (76 cm) at Port Arthur. [14] More recently around Christmas of 2004, up to 13 inches (33 cm) of snow fell along the middle coast, with the maximum occurring at Victoria. [15]

The worst cold snap to occur statewide occurred during the last half of December in 1983. Four stations recorded their longest continuous readings at or below 32 °F (0 °C) on record. At Austin, the temperature remained at or below freezing for 139 hours. At Abilene, the period at or below freezing totaled 202 hours. Lubbock saw temperatures at or below freezing for 207 hours. The Dallas-Fort Worth airport measured temperatures at or below freezing for a total of 296 consecutive hours. Snow which fell on December 14 and 15 across northern Texas stayed on the ground until New Year's Day of 1984. [16]

Severe weather

Thunderstorms are very common in Texas, especially the eastern and northern portion. Texas is part of the Tornado Alley section of the country. The state experiences the most tornadoes in the Union, an average of 139 a year. These strike most frequently in North Texas and the Panhandle. [4] Tornadoes in Texas generally occur in April, May, and June. [17]

Hurricanes

Damage from the 1900 Galveston hurricane, the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history, was extensive. Galveston - 1900 wreckage.jpg
Damage from the 1900 Galveston hurricane, the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history, was extensive.

Texas's position at the northwestern end of the Gulf of Mexico makes it vulnerable to hurricanes. Some of the most destructive hurricanes in U.S. history have impacted Texas. A hurricane in 1875 killed approximately 400 people in Indianola, followed by another hurricane in 1886 that destroyed the town, which was at the time the most important port city in the state. This allowed Galveston to take over as the chief port city, but it was subsequently devastated by a hurricane in 1900 that killed approximately 8,000 people (possibly as many as 12,000), making it the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history. Other devastating Texan hurricanes include the 1915 Galveston Hurricane, Hurricane Carla in 1961, Hurricane Beulah in 1967, Hurricane Alicia in 1983, Hurricane Rita in 2005, and Hurricane Ike in 2008. [18]

The climatology of where tropical cyclone strikes are most likely within the state appears to be changing. In the early 1980s, the most favored region during the previous century was the middle coast. [3] However, that region of the coastline has been rarely impacted since the 1960s, and a recent study indicates that the most vulnerable location to a tropical cyclone strike since 1851 is the upper coast, which has received 56 percent of all tropical cyclone landfalls, of which 66 percent originate from the Gulf of Mexico. This is in contrast with Louisiana and the lower Texan coast, where only 39 percent of the landfalls are from tropical cyclones of Gulf of Mexico origin. [19]

Flooding

Annual average precipitation across Texas Texas Precipitation Map.svg
Annual average precipitation across Texas

The most serious threat from tropical cyclones for Texans is from flooding. The worst aspect about tropical cyclones is that the weaker they are, the more efficient they can be at producing heavy rains and catastrophic flooding. Systems with sprawling circulations, such as Hurricane Beulah, also tend to make good rainmakers. [20] Slow moving systems, such as Tropical Storm Amelia (1978) and Hurricane Harvey (2017) can produce significant rainfall. [21] Tropical cyclones from the eastern Pacific and Atlantic Basins can impact the Lone Star State. [22] In general, flooding across Texas is more common during the spring and early autumn months, and it can also be due to nearby stationary fronts interacting with strong upper level cyclones. [23] The most likely location for floods statewide is the Balcones Escarpment, an area of steep elevation gradient in central Texas at the boundary between the Edwards Plateau and the coastal plain. [24]

Extreme temperatures

The highest temperature ever measured in Texas was 120 °F (48.9 °C), recorded on August 12, 1936 in Seymour, during the 1936 North American Heatwave, and again on June 28, 1994 in Monahans. The lowest temperature ever measured in Texas was −23 °F (−30.6 °C), recorded on February 8, 1933 in Seminole. [25]

Climate data for Texas
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Record high °F (°C)98
(37)
104
(40)
108
(42)
113
(45)
116
(47)
120
(49)
119
(48)
120
(49)
116
(47)
110
(43)
102
(39)
98
(37)
120
(49)
Record low °F (°C)−22
(−30)
−23
(−31)
−12
(−24)
5
(−15)
15
(−9)
32
(0)
40
(4)
39
(4)
25
(−4)
8
(−13)
−10
(−23)
−16
(−27)
−23
(−31)
Source: [26] [27]

El Niño–Southern Oscillation

The El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle is a huge impact on the weather in Texas. During the El Niño phase, the jet stream is located west-to-east across the southern portion of the United States. Therefore, winters in Texas are colder and receive more snowfall than normal. Texas is also less likely to get impacted by hurricanes due to the increased wind shear across the Atlantic. Spring to early summer yields increased rainfall especially where a low pressure system is located over the Four Corners region or northern Mexico which yields monsoon-like climate (which was exacerbated during the 2015 and 2016 spring season where the City of Houston was the hardest hit as if the climate was similar to Mumbai or Kolkata, India with heavy rainfall usually from moisture from the Gulf of Mexico). During the opposite phase, La Niña, the jet stream is much further north, therefore winter is milder and drier than normal. Hurricanes are more likely to impact Texas during La Niña due to decreased wind shear in the Atlantic. Droughts in Texas are much more likely during La Niña. The 2010-11 La Niña is mostly to blame for one of the worst droughts in Texas history.[ citation needed ]

Climate change

Texas emits the most greenhouse gases in the US. [28] [29] The state's annual carbon dioxide emissions are nearly 1.5 trillion pounds (680 billion kg). Texas would be the world's seventh-largest producer of greenhouse gases if it were an independent nation. [29] [30] [31] The primary factors in Texas' greenhouse gas emissions are the state's large number of coal power plants and the state's refining and manufacturing industries which provides the bulk of the United States' petroleum products. [29]

Notes

  1. Official records for El Paso kept January 1879 to June 1947 at downtown and at El Paso Int'l since July 1947. For more information, see Threadex

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Gulf Coast of the United States Coastline in the United States


The Gulf Coast of the United States is the coastline along the Southern United States where they meet the Gulf of Mexico. The coastal states that have a shoreline on the Gulf of Mexico are Southeast Texas & South Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, and these are known as the Gulf States.

Climate of Missouri

Missouri generally has a variety of seasonal humid subtropical climate, with cool winters and long, hot summers. In the southern part of the state, particularly in the Bootheel, the climate borders on a more mild-type humid subtropical climate, and in the northern third, the state transitions into a humid continental climate. Because of its location in the interior United States, Missouri often experiences extremes in temperatures. Lacking either large mountains or oceans nearby to moderate its temperature, its climate is alternately influenced by air from the cold Arctic and the hot and humid Gulf of Mexico. As of late, Missouri has seen a drastic decline in annual snowfall, with some daily high winter temperatures sometimes dwindling in early summer/late spring temperatures.

Climate of Virginia The Climate in Southeastern Virginia is very much bi-polar.

The climate of Virginia, a state on the east coast of the United States, is considered mild compared to other areas of the United States. Most of Virginia east of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the southern part of the Shenandoah Valley, and the Roanoke Valley, has a humid subtropical climate. In the mountainous areas west of the Blue Ridge, the climate becomes warm-summer humid continental and oceanic climate. Severe weather, in the form of tornadoes, tropical cyclones, and winter storms, impacts the state on a regular basis. Central Virginia received significant snowfall of 20 inches in December 2009.

The climate of Salt Lake City under the Köppen climate classification is semi-arid continental, which features cold and snowy winters, hot and dry summers, and modest to light seasonal rainfall. Lying in the Salt Lake Valley, the city is surrounded by mountains and the Great Salt Lake.

The climate of San Diego, California is classified as a Mediterranean climate. The basic climate features hot, sunny, and dry summers, and cooler, wetter winters. However, San Diego is much more arid than typical Mediterranean climates, and winters are still dry compared with most other zones with this type of climate.

United States rainfall climatology

The characteristics of United States rainfall climatology differ significantly across the United States and those under United States sovereignty. Late summer and fall extratropical cyclones bring a majority of the precipitation which falls across western, southern, and southeast Alaska annually. During the winter, and spring, Pacific storm systems bring Hawaii and the western United States most of their precipitation. Nor'easters moving down the East coast bring cold season precipitation to the Carolinas, Mid-Atlantic and New England states. Lake-effect snows add to precipitation potential downwind of the Great Lakes, as well as Great Salt Lake and the Finger Lakes during the cold season. The snow to liquid ratio across the contiguous United States averages 13:1, meaning 13 inches (330 mm) of snow melts down to 1 inch (25 mm) of water.

The climate of Houston is classified as humid subtropical climate, with tropical influences. August normally ranks as the warmest month at 94.5 °F (34.7 °C) and January the coldest month at 42.2 °F (5.7 °C).

The Climate of Beaumont, Texas covers the averages and extremes in past weather seen within the city of Beaumont, Texas. The city is within the humid subtropical climate regime, and is within the Piney Woods region of eastern Texas. The area around Beaumont receives the most rainfall in the state: more than 48 inches (1,200 mm) annually. Summers in the area are usually hot and humid, due to the moisture that flows inland off of the Gulf of Mexico. Winters are usually kept mild by the warm gulf waters. Hurricanes also pose a threat to the area. Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Hurricane Rita in 2005, and Hurricane Ike in 2008 were the most recent significant storms to strike.

Climate of Florida

The climate of the north and central parts of the US state of Florida is humid subtropical. Most of South Florida has a tropical climate. There is a defined rainy season from May through October, when air mass thundershowers that build in the heat of the day drop heavy but brief summer rainfall. Late summer and early fall bring decaying tropical lows that contribute to late summer and early fall rains.

Climate of Georgia (U.S. state)

The climate of Georgia is a humid subtropical climate with most of the state having short, mild winters and long, hot summers. The Atlantic Ocean on the east coast of Georgia and the hill country in the north impact the state's climate. Also, the Chattahoochee River divides Georgia into separate climatic regions with the mountain region to the northwest being cooler than the rest of the state, the average temperatures for that region in January and July being 39 °F (4 °C) and 78 °F (26 °C) respectively. Winter in Georgia is characterized by mild temperatures and little snowfall around the state, with the potential for snow and ice increasing in the northern parts of the state. Summer daytime temperatures in Georgia often exceed 95 °F (35 °C). The state experiences widespread precipitation. Tornadoes and tropical cyclones are common.

Climate of the United States Varies due to changes in latitude, and a range of geographic features

The climate of the United States varies due to changes in latitude, and a range of geographic features, including mountains and deserts. Generally, on the mainland, the climate of the U.S. becomes warmer the further south one travels, and drier the further west, until one reaches the West Coast.

Climate of North Carolina

North Carolina's climate varies from the Atlantic coast in the east to the Appalachian Mountain range in the west. The mountains often act as a "shield", blocking low temperatures and storms from the Midwest from entering the Piedmont of North Carolina. Most of the state has a humid subtropical climate, except in the higher elevations of the Appalachians which have a subtropical highland climate. The USDA hardiness zones for the state range from zone 5a in the mountains to zone 8b along the coast. For most areas in the state, the temperatures in July during the daytime are approximately 90 °F (32 °C). In January the average temperatures range near 50 °F (10 °C).

Climate of Illinois

The Climate of Illinois describes the weather conditions, and extremes, noted within the state of Illinois, United States, over time.

South Carolina has a humid subtropical climate, with hot summers throughout most of the State. Mild winters predominate in the eastern and southern part of the state, but cool to occasionally cold winters are the standard in the northwestern area of the state, especially areas at or above 600 feet in elevation. On average, between 40 inches (1,000 mm) and 80 inches (2,000 mm) of precipitation falls annually across the state. Tropical cyclones, and afternoon thunderstorms due to hot and humid conditions, contribute to precipitation during the summer and sometimes fall months, while extratropical cyclones contribute to precipitation during the fall, winter, and spring months. The coast experiences nearly all of their tropical weather impacts from storms coming directly from the Atlantic coast. The northwestern area of the state can receive impacts from both Atlantic basin storms moving westward from the coast and also occasionally very heavy rainfall and flooding from storms originating from the Gulf of Mexico that move inland towards the northeast after making landfall from the Florida panhandle to Louisiana.

Climate of New York

The climate of New York state is generally humid continental, while the extreme southeastern portion of the state lies in the warm humid subtropical climate zone. Winter temperatures average below freezing during January and February in much of New York state, but several degrees above freezing along the Atlantic coastline, including New York City.

Climate of Mexico

The climate of Mexico is very varied. The Tropic of Cancer effectively divides the country into temperate and tropical zones. Land that is north of the twenty-fourth parallel experiences lower temperatures during the winter months. South of the twenty-fourth parallel, temperatures are fairly consistent all year round and vary solely as a function of elevation. The north of the country usually receives less precipitation than the south.

Humid subtropical climate climate subtype in the Köppen climate classification system

A humid subtropical climate is a zone of climate characterized by hot and humid summers, and cold to mild winters. These climates normally lie on the southeast side of all continents, generally between latitudes 25° and 35° and are located poleward from adjacent tropical climates.

Climate of the Tampa Bay area

The Tampa Bay area has a humid subtropical climate closely bordering a tropical monsoon climate near the waterfront areas. There are two basic seasons in the Tampa Bay area, a hot and wet season from May through October, and a mild and dry season from November through April.

Climate of Alabama

The state of Alabama is classified as humid subtropical (Cfa) under the Köppen climate classification. The state's average annual temperature is 64 °F (18 °C). Temperatures tend to be warmer in the state's southern portion with its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, while its northern portions, especially in the Appalachian Mountains in the northeast, tend to be slightly cooler. Alabama generally has very hot summers and mild winters with copious precipitation throughout the year. The state receives an average of 56 inches (1,400 mm) of rainfall each year and experiences a lengthy growing season of up to 300 days in its southern portion. Hailstorms occur occasionally during the spring and summer here, but they are seldom destructive. Heavy fogs are rare, and they are confined chiefly to the coast. Thunderstorms also occur year-around. They are most common in the summer, but they are most commonly severe during the spring and late autumn. That is when destructive winds and tornadoes occur frequently, especially in the northern and central parts of the state. Central and northern Alabama are squarely within Dixie Alley, the primary area in the U.S. outside the Southern Plains with relatively high tornado risk. Alabama is ranked second in the U.S for the deadliest tornadoes. Hurricanes are quite common in the state, especially in the southern part. Major hurricanes occasionally strike the coast, such as Hurricane Frederic in September 1979 and Hurricane Ivan in September 2004; both storms resulted in significant to devastating damage in the Mobile area.

Earth rainfall climatology

Earth rainfall climatology Is the study of rainfall, a sub-field of Meteorology. Formally, a wider study includes water falling as ice crystals, i.e. hail, sleet, snow. The aim of rainfall climatology is to measure, understand and predict rain distribution across different regions of planet Earth, a factor of air pressure, humidity, topography, cloud type and raindrop size, via direct measurement and remote sensing data acquisition. Current technologies accurately predict rainfall 3–4 days in advance using numerical weather prediction. Geostationary orbiting satellites gather IR and visual wavelength data to measure realtime localised rainfall by estimating cloud albedo, water content, and the corresponding probability of rain. Geographic distribution of rain is largely governed by climate type, topography and habitat humidity. In mountainous areas, heavy precipitation is possible where upslope flow is maximized within windward sides of the terrain at elevation. On the leeward side of mountains, desert climates can exist due to the dry air caused by compressional heating. The movement of the monsoon trough, or intertropical convergence zone, brings rainy seasons to savannah climes. The urban heat island effect leads to increased rainfall, both in amounts and intensity, downwind of cities. Warming may also cause changes in the precipitation pattern globally, including wetter conditions at high latitudes and in some wet tropical areas. Precipitation is a major component of the water cycle, and is responsible for depositing most of the fresh water on the planet. Approximately 505,000 cubic kilometres (121,000 cu mi) of water falls as precipitation each year; 398,000 cubic kilometres (95,000 cu mi) of it over the oceans. Given the Earth's surface area, that means the globally averaged annual precipitation is 990 millimetres (39 in). Climate classification systems such as the Köppen climate classification system use average annual rainfall to help differentiate between differing climate regimes.

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