Germany has an area of about 357,000 sq km/137,800 sq mi. Occupying a central position in Europe, it extends from Denmark in the north to Switzerland and Austria in the south. It is bordered on the west by the Benelux countries and France and on the east by Poland and the Czech Republic. It has a coastline both on the North Sea and the Baltic.
North Germany is part of the North European Plain and is generally low-lying and rather flat. Central and southern Germany is hilly and rises southwards towards the Alps on the Austrian border. This increasing altitude in the centre and south of the country compensates for the decreasing latitude so that in summer temperatures do not differ much from north to south. However, in winter temperatures decrease, and the number of days with frost and snow increase both southwards and eastwards. This is a consequence of increasing distance from the sea, higher altitude, and the effect of cold easterly winds from Russia.
Germany has a variable climate with frequent changes of weather from day to day. The character of individual summers and winters may also be very different from year to year, depending on whether oceanic or continental influences dominate. During severe winters rivers and canals may freeze and snow may lie for long periods. Over most of the country summer is marginally wetter than winter but in the west autumn may be the wettest season. Summer rain is often thundery. The annual range of temperature is least in the northwest and increases southwards and eastwards.
For a more detailed description of weather and climate the country can be divided into seven regions: the North Sea coast, the Baltic coast, the North German Plain, the North Rhineland, the central and southern hills, the upper Rhine, and the Bavarian Alps (see map).
The Baltic Coast
Including (with towns and cities in parentheses) Schleswig-Holstein (Kiel), Mecklenburg-West Pomerania (Rostock).
This region includes the east coast of Schleswig-Holstein and the north coast of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania. It has a more severe winter than the North Sea coast, particularly in winters when there is much sea ice in the Baltic. Summers are rather more settled than on the North Sea coast, with more sunshine, but rain is often thundery. See the tables for Kiel and Rostock.
The North German Plain
Including (with towns and cities in parentheses) North Rhine-Westphalia (Düsseldorf), Niedersachsen (Hannover), Saxony-Anhalt (Magdeburg), Brandenburg (Berlin).
This is a low-lying, gently undulating area which is a western extension of the great North European Plain. From the Dutch border to Poland there is no great difference in climate or weather except that winters become colder eastwards and the summers more settled and slightly warmer. During severe cold spells in winter, canals and navigable rivers may freeze. Such cold spells are caused by persistent easterly winds blowing from Russia. However in some winters such spells are short and infrequent. Summers are generally more settled than in the coastal regions to the north. Although summer is the wettest season, the rain is often thundery and short-lived, so that summer sunshine amounts are moderately high.
The Central and Southern Hills
Including (with towns and cities in parentheses) Bavaria (Munich, Nuremberg, Rothenberg), Hessen (Kassel), Saxony (Leipzig, Dresden), Baden-Württemberg (Stuttgart), Saarland (Saarbrücken).
This extensive region of central and south Germany includes all the higher ground south of the North German Plain up to the Alpine foothills of Bavaria as well as the hills west of the Rhine gorge. As the tables for Kassel, Leipzig and Munich show there is not a very great difference in weather and climate over this extensive region. Temperature varies mainly as a result of altitude so that the higher parts of Bavaria and the Harz Mountains have the coldest winters and the longest duration of snow cover. Summers are generally warm with much sunshine, despite the heavier summer rainfall. Frosts may be severe in some valleys in winter despite the lower altitude. As in much of central Europe summers may vary in character from one year to another, some being warm and dry, others cloudy and wet.
The Northeast Coastlands
Including (with towns and cities in parentheses) Hamburg (Hamburg).
This region includes the coast from the mouth of the River Ems to that of the Elbe, the East Frisian Islands and the west coast of Schleswig-Holstein. This is the mildest area of Germany in winter but the weather can be cold when east winds prevail. Autumn tends to be the wettest season. Weather can be variable at all seasons and the region is open to the influence of Atlantic storms. The average daily sunshine ranges from about two hours in winter to six in summer. Conditions are represented by the table for Hamburg.
The North Rhineland
Including (with towns and cities in parentheses) North Rhine-Westphalia (Cologne, Bonn, Essen), Hessen (Frankfurt-am-Main).
This northwestern district of Germany includes the Ruhr industrial region and the gorge section of the Rhine valley from Mannheim to Bonn. On either side of the Rhine gorge are uplands such as the Eifel plateau and Westerwald hills, where the climate is similar to that of the Central and Southern Hills. The climatic tables for Cologne and Frankfurt are representative of the lowland section of this region which contains many large and important towns. The hill slopes along the Rhine and Moselle valleys have a climate particularly suitable to the cultivation of the vine. Winters can be quite cold and the summer weather is often disturbed and variable but is generally sufficiently warm and sunny to make this a notable area for wine.
The Upper Rhine Valley
Including (with towns and cities in parentheses) southwestern Baden-Württemburg, the Black Forest (Freiburg im Breisgau, Baden-Baden, Heidelberg).
This small district of southwest Germany includes the German portion of the Upper Rhine valley as far as the Swiss frontier. In spring and summer it is the warmest part of the country and produces a wide variety of crops, including vines and tobacco. It is a sunny region in summer with up to eight hours sunshine per day. Winters are however quite cold because of proximity to the Alps and distance from the ocean. See the table for Freiburg im Breisgau.
The Bavarian Alps
Including (with towns and cities in parentheses) the southernmost part of Bavaria (Oberammergau, Berchtesgaden).
This small mountain region extends along the border with the Austrian Tirol; it contains the highest mountains in Germany and is a popular area for winter sports. It has a number of lake resorts which are popular in summer. Weather and climate are similar to that found in the Austrian Tirol. See the table for Innsbruck. Winters are cold and snowy but the summers are moderately warm despite being rather wet.
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