Climate Zones (KS2) Explained

Group of children looking intently at a colourful globe.

From Year 3 to Year 6, the school Geography curriculum will explore the physical geography of the world, which includes the global climate zones and the physical processes behind them.

Needing to describe and understand exactly what climate zones are, how they are formed and where they can be found can be slightly confusing, but there is no need to worry! Kidadl has put together a fun, handy glossary of these climate zones to help with the syllabus, for both children and parents alike, to get them learning about areas far beyond their own countries.

What Are Climate Zones?

Climate zones are areas around the world with specific patterns of weather. In a certain place, if there is a pattern of weather that occurs over a long period of time, this can be described as its climate. It takes years for scientists to find, track and record these patterns.

For example, if a place has colder temperatures and high rainfall in the winter, but sunny, warmer conditions in the summer, this would be a temperate climate zone. The coldest climates are found in the Arctic and Antarctic, whilst the hottest areas are found in countries near the Equator.

There is, however, an important distinction to make between weather and climate when learning about these zones; the weather is the general day-to-day conditions of a place, while the climate is the pattern of this weather over a long time.

Child in a woolly hat holding a mug of hot chocolate in the snow
Image © iStock

How Are These Climate Zones Formed?

The geography curriculum for children in primary school (Year 3, Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6) looks at the physical geography behind climate zones. Your primary school child will need to understand that these zones are formed due to the position of a place in relation to the Equator.

When a country is close to the Equator, the Sun's rays are extremely intense and concentrated on a very small area, which heats the Earth much more. This creates hotter climates, such as arid, semi-arid and desert areas.

The Sun's rays, therefore, reach the polar regions at an angle, rather than in a direct beam. With less heat, these areas have a much colder climate that we typically associate with the Arctic and Antarctic regions. These also have much wetter conditions, as the warm, moist air from the Equator rises and travels up towards the Polar regions.

Between the hottest and coldest regions, there are a variety of different climates across the globe, each with varying temperatures, rainfall and wildlife.

What Are The 6 Major Climate Zones?

There are different types of climate zones around the world, all determined by the position of a place in relation to the Equator. The six climate zones are:

Tropical: These climate zones are hot and humid as they sit directly opposite the Equator.

Arid: These areas are characteristic for being extremely dry and most often these are deserts.

Mediterranean: These locations have hot, dry summers but cold, dry winters.

Temperate: Temperate areas have mild summers and winters that aren't too cold, very typical of our climate here in the United Kingdom. They have moderate conditions all year round.

Continental: These places have very long, cold winters and have short, hot summers.

Polar: The polar climate zones have long periods of extremely cold conditions.

It is much easier to understand these when looking at a climate zones map, and much more fun too. The keys on climate zones maps mark the coldest zones as blue and the hottest as red, so this makes it much easier to find areas with differing climates.

A KS2 child gazes intently at a large map.

What Are The 4 Major Climate Zones of Africa?

Africa alone has 4 different climate zones that are characteristic of the continent. However, even within these, a specific area could have a local climate that is very different from the country, or even the continent, as a whole. It is important to find the climates in each area if you can!

The 4 major climate zones for Africa are:

Desert: The desert areas of Africa have little to no rainfall. They have very high temperatures and only a few plants and animals can survive in these very harsh conditions.

Semi-arid: The places with very high temperatures but slightly more rainfall can be described as semi-arid, often very near the desert areas.

Tropical: Africa's tropical climates have much more rainfall. These climates have a rainy season, typically these will last for months.

Equatorial: These areas have extremely high temperatures and get a lot of rain, a mix of the other climates found across the continent.

The curriculum spans many different primary year groups and a comprehensive understanding of these difficult geographical processes will differ throughout the primary school years. Finding information to help your child learn and develop is key to success here, it is the perfect starting point.


Written By

Grace Lea

Born in Portsmouth, but currently studying at the University of Birmingham, Grace is the oldest of three sisters. With 13 years between herself and her youngest sister, Nancy, she spends plenty of time seeking out activities that will officially make her the cool big sister! Grace also loves reading, writing and presenting her own show on the University radio.

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