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Climate of the Alps


The climate of the Alps is the climate, or average weather conditions over a long period of time, of the exact middle Alpine region of Europe. As air rises from sea level to the upper regions of the atmosphere the temperature decreases. The effect of mountain topography on prevailing winds is to force warm air from the lower region into an upper zone where it expands in volume at the cost of a proportionate loss of heat, often accompanied by the precipitation of moisture in the form of snow, rain or hail.

The position of the Alps in the central European continent profoundly affects the climate of all the surrounding regions. The accumulation of vast masses of snow, which have gradually been converted into permanent glaciers, maintains a gradation of very different climates within the narrow space that intervenes between the foot of the mountains and their upper ridges; it cools breezes that waft to the plains on either side, but its most important function is to regulate the water supply of the large region which is traversed by the streams of the Alps. Nearly all the moisture that is precipitated during fall, winter, and spring is stored in the form of snow and gradually diffused in the course of the succeeding summer; even in the hottest and driest seasons the reserves accumulated during a long preceding period of years in the form of glaciers are available to maintain the regular flow of the greater streams. Nor is this all; the lakes that fill several of the main valleys on the southern side of the Alps are somewhat above the level of the plains of Lombardy and Venetia, and afford an inexhaustible supply of water, which, from a remote period, has been used for that system of irrigation to which they owe their proverbial fertility.



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Wikipedia

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