Exploring Our World: People, Places, and Cultures

Chapter 10: Physical Geography of Europe

Chapter Overviews

Europe's landforms include high, snowcapped mountains and broad plains. Its major landform, the Northern European Plain, has rich, fertile soil that supports farms and livestock. Europe produces a large amount of grains, including nearly all the world's rye. It also contains energy and mineral resources such as coal. For these reasons, it is the most densely populated area of Europe. Europe also contains the Alpine Mountain System, which lies north of the plain, and other highland areas. In addition to plains and mountains, Europe has an abundance of rivers, lakes, and other waterways. It is also surrounded by seas, which has encouraged trade and helped people travel easily. Europe is an important producer of the world's coal, which fueled the development of industry in the 1800s. Europe also has petroleum and natural gas. Although its resources have helped it become economically stable over the centuries, many Europeans are concerned now about environmental problems that come from industrialization.

Europe's nearness to water and its wind patterns greatly affect its climate. It contains eight major climate zones. In northwestern and central Europe, the fertile soil and marine west coast climate provide a long growing season for farmers. Differences exist across the region because of proximity, or nearness, to coastal areas. Southern Europe enjoys a Mediterranean climate, while eastern and some areas of northern Europe have a humid continental climate. Areas of the far north, such as Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland, are in the subarctic and tundra climate zones. Europe's environment has been damaged by deforestation, pollution, and acid rain. Many monuments, even ancient ones, show damage as a result of acid rain. Europe's leaders are also concerned about global warming and are working to protect their environment through recycling and limiting chemical pollution.

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