Geography and History of the World © 2010 Indiana Edition

Chapter 11: Physical Geography of Europe

Chapter Overviews

The large peninsula of Europe is made of smaller peninsulas. Mountains running along the interior and along the southern and northern edges interrupt the plains that make up much of Europe. It shares a landmass with Asia called Eurasia. The region is rich in natural resources, and navigable rivers in the heartland provide transportation routes throughout Europe. Climate regions range from Mediterranean in the south to subarctic and tundra in the far north. Most of the region is close to a coastline, and the warm and moist westerly winds foster a moderate climate.

The Land Europe is a large peninsula that is made up of smaller peninsulas. Its irregular coastline means that most of Europe is within 300 miles of a seacoast. The northern part of the Scandinavian Peninsula is mountainous, with fjords cut into the coastline by glaciers, while the southern part of Sweden and most of Jutland have lowlands or plains. The Iberian, the Apennine, and the Balkan peninsulas make up the southern parts of Europe along the Mediterranean. Europe includes many islands, from Iceland in the North Atlantic Ocean to the British Isles to smaller islands in the Mediterranean. The mountain regions of the Pyrenees, the Alps, and the Carpathians form a climate barrier between southern Europe and the plains regions in western and eastern Europe. While rivers in Scandinavia and southern Europe often are short or not navigable, those in the heartland of Europe, along with canals, provide major transportation routes and links to inland areas. Europe has a long history of using its abundant natural resources. While there are major reserves of fuels, Europeans also rely on nuclear and hydroelectric power.

Climate and Vegetation Latitude, mountain barriers, and the distance from large bodies of water all affect the climate in Europe. The climate in western Europe is largely determined by the prevailing westerly winds blowing over and the North Atlantic current. These winds bring warm, moist air and foster lush vegetation with deciduous and coniferous trees. Most of Southern Europe has a Mediterranean climate, with the Alps blocking moist Atlantic winds from the west. The vegetation found here is mostly chaparral, although some small areas support a humid subtropical climate. Humid continental climate generally is found in eastern and some northern areas of Europe, with a mix of deciduous and coniferous forests. Parts of eastern Europe are covered by grasslands, while subarctic and tundra climates with permafrost predominate in the far north.

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