Within the Köppen Climate Classification System, polar climates have year-round cold temperatures with the warmest month less than 10° Celsius. Polar climates are found on the northern coastal areas of North America, Europe, Asia, and on the landmasses of Greenland and Antarctica.
See link for high reslution Köppen Climate Map to see the spatial distribution of the E climate type.
Two minor climate categories exist. ET or polar tundra is a climate where the soil is permanently frozen to depths of hundreds of meters, a condition known as permafrost. Vegetation is dominated by mosses, lichens, dwarf trees, and scattered woody shrubs. EF or polar ice cap has a surface that is permanently covered with snow and ice.
ET - Polar Tundra
Average temperature of warmest month for this climate is below 10°C (50°F) but is above 0°C (32°F). Precipitation generally is greater than potential evaporation.
Locations: Regions in North America, Greenland, and Eurasia that border the Arctic Ocean, Antarctic Peninsula, and many polar islands.
Controlling Weather Factors: Continual presence of Arctic and Antarctic air masses, polar vortex, and closeness to oceans.
Climate Characteristics: This climate essentially has no summer. At least 9 months have average temperatures below freezing. Very low evaporation because of cold temperatures. Precipitation is normally less than 250 mm (10 in.). Winds tend to be strong and cold.
Figure 1. ET - Barrow, Alaska, USA 72° N , Elevation: 9 m (30 ft). (Image Copyright: Michael Pidwirny).
EF - Polar Ice Cap
Average temperature of warmest month for the EF climate is 0°C (32°F) or less. Precipitation generally is greater than potential evaporation.
Locations: Interior Greenland, most of Antarctica, and most Arctic Islands.
Controlling Weather Factors: Continual presence of Arctic and Antarctic air masses and polar vortex produce the planet’s coldest temperatures. Permanent ice cover and high elevations enhance the coldness of this climate.
Climate Characteristics: No summer and all average monthly temperatures are below freezing. Very low evaporation because of cold temperatures. Very small amounts of precipitation occur, mainly falling as snow.
Figure 2. EF - Plateau Station, Antarctica 79° S , Elevation: 3625 m (11,893 ft). (Image Copyright: Michael Pidwirny).
Online Köppen Maps
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- Peel, Murray C. 2011. Updated Köppen-Geiger Climate Map of the World. http://people.eng.unimelb.edu.au/mpeel/koppen.html