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China's climate is extremely diverse. Since the country covers such a vast geographical area that stretches across 35 degrees of latitude, China's climate ranges from being sub-tropical in the south to sub-arctic in the north. Variations in land elevation also contribute to the extreme climatic differences. Despite this, the country can be separated into approximately seven climatic zones with the following characteristics.

Northeast China is known for its hot, dry summers and long, cold winters. In central China, the summers are hot and humid, with heavy rainfall during the late summer months. The climate on the Yunnan Guizhou High Plateau is generally mild, with warm summers and cool winters and very little with little rainfall. Southern China's climate, around Hong Kong and Guangdong province, is considered to be sub-tropical. Rainfall is evenly distributed throughout the year. Summers are long, hot and humid; while the winters are short with cooler temperatures. On the Tibet Qinghai Plateau, summer is short and moderately warm; while winters can get very cold at the higher altitudes.

In general, the areas north of the Yangtze River have extremely cold winters but somewhat milder summers. The central area around the Yangtze River Valley has long hot summers with heavy precipitation from monsoons and typhoons. Monsoons are the winds that bring rain from the south in the summer and snowstorms from the north in winter. Monsoons have been the source of massive flooding along the Yangtze for years. Typhoons typically hit the southeast coast between July and September.

Temperatures vary a great deal. Influenced by latitude and monsoon activities, in winter, an isotherm of zero degrees traverses the Huaihe River-Qinling Mountain-southeast Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Areas north of the isotherm have temperatures below zero degrees and south of it, above zero. Mohe in Heilongjiang can hit an average of 30 degrees centigrade below zero, while the temperature of Sanya in Hainan Province is above 20 degrees. In summer, most of areas are above 20 degrees centigrade despite the high Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and other mountains such as Tianshan. Among these hot places, Turpan Basin in Xinjiang is the center for intense heat at 32 centigrade on average.

Cold-Temperate Zone: north part of Heilongjiang Province and Inner Mongolia (Representative city: Harbin)

Mid-Temperate Zone: Jilin, northern Xinjiang, and most of Heilongjiang, Liaoning, and Inner Mongolia (Representative cities: Beijing, Shenyang, Dalian, Urumqi, Hohhot, Dunhuang, Lanzhou)

Warm-Temperate Zone: area of the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River, Shandong, Shanxi, Shaanxi, and Hebei Province (Representative cities: Xian, Taiyuan, Luoyang, Jinan, Qingdao, Zhengzhou)

Subtropical Zone: South of isotherm of Qinling Mountain-Huaihe River, east of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (Representative cities: Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Macau, Guilin, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Kunming, Dali, Lijiang, Chengdu)

Tropical Zone: Hainan province, southern Taiwan, Guangdong, and Yunnan Province (Representative cities: Haikou, Sanya)

Plateau Climate Zone: Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (Representative city: Lhasa)