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The polar climate regions are characterized by a lack of warm summers. Every month in a polar climate has an average temperature of less than 10 °C (50 °F). Regions with polar climate cover more than 20% of the Earth. The sun shines for long hours in the summer, and for many fewer hours in the winter. A polar climate results in treeless tundra, glaciers, or a permanent or semi-permanent layer of ice. It has cool summers and very cold winters.
There are two types of polar climate: ET, or tundra climate; and EF, or ice cap climate. A tundra climate is characterized by having at least one month whose average temperature is above 0 °C (32 °F), while an ice cap climate has no months above 0 °C (32 °F). In a tundra climate, trees cannot grow, but other specialized plants can grow. In an ice cap climate, no plants can grow, and ice gradually accumulates until it flows elsewhere. Many high altitude locations on Earth have a climate where no month has an average temperature of 10 °C (50 °F) or higher, but as this is due to elevation, this climate is referred to as Alpine climate. Alpine climate can mimic either tundra or ice cap climate.
On Earth, the only continent where the ice cap polar climate is predominant is Antarctica. All but a few isolated coastal areas on the island of Greenland also have the ice cap climate. Coastal regions of Greenland that do not have permanent ice sheets have the less extreme tundra climates. The northernmost part of the Eurasian land mass, from the extreme northeastern coast of Scandinavia and eastwards to the Bering Strait, large areas of northern Siberia and northern Iceland have tundra climate as well. Large areas in northern Canada and northern Alaska have tundra climate, changing to ice cap climate in the most northern parts of Canada. Southernmost South America (Tierra del Fuego where it abuts the Drake Passage) and such subantarctic islands such as the South Shetland Islands and the Falkland Islands have tundra climates of slight thermal range in which no month is as warm as 10 °C (50 °F). These subantarctic lowlands are found closer to the equator than the coastal tundras of the Arctic basin.
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