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Living in the US

The Climate of the US

Keeping in mind the immense dimensions of the United States’ surface area and its highly diverse geographic features, it should not come as a surprise that the US boasts a large variety of climatic regions. Expats should know what to expect from the climate in their new home abroad!

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Climate Zones in the US

Throughout the east and the US heartland, with the exception of the southernmost tip of Florida, you will experience a humid climate which is continental in the north and subtropical further south. The dividing line is roughly located around the southern edges of Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. South of Miami, the climate is tropical.

The transition between the plains of the eastern US and the highlands in the west, beginning westward of the Great Plains (along a line that splits the United States rather neatly into two halves) is one of the major division lines of the US climate. Most regions west of this line, up until the Pacific coast, are noticeably drier than the eastern half of the country, with semiarid, arid, and highland climates being predominant. Unsurprisingly, the famous steppes and deserts of the US, including iconic areas such as Death Valley or the Grand Canyon, can be found here.

Along the West Coast, there are two very distinct climate zones: while most of California is Mediterranean, the Pacific Northwest has a marine climate with characteristically high levels of precipitation.  Alaska and Hawaii are subarctic and tropical, respectively.

What kind of weather you should pack for is, of course, highly dependent on what region your move will take you to. It is always a good idea to research your future hometown and the local climate in advance. Below, you can find recommended sources for this kind of information.

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Forecasts and Warnings

Of course, there are any number of sources for weather forecasts in the US, and most of them will get the job done just fine. If you find yourself in want of additional information, you might want to turn to the federal government’s services.

The National Weather Service does not only offer forecasts for your county, but also issues weather warnings and detailed info on every aspect of weather you can think of. You will also find in-depth background information on common weather phenomena, including severe ones, and how to react to them. It’s not only recommended reading when settling in a new city, but useful throughout your stay.

Severe Weather

Severe weather can be defined as any type of weather that can potentially inflict damage to infrastructure, wildlife, and humans. These weather events can be found anywhere in the United States, and many regions see yearly occurrences of extreme weather. The most common types of severe weather in the USA include:

  • hurricanes
  • tornados
  • blizzards
  • hailstorms
  • heat and cold waves
  • floods
  • wildfires

Any expat in the US should know what type(s) of severe weather they might find themselves confronted with in their new hometowns, how to tell if severe weather is approaching, and where to get informed about the most sensible behavior in these situations. It might be wise to prepare a plan for emergency cases. If you do not, things can potentially turn ugly rather quickly. Our guide article on emergency preparedness briefs you on the topic.

Updated on: December 06, 2018
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