Tundra climate (ET)

Tundra climate (ET)

ET :  E = Polar  T = Tundra 


The tundra climate is a polar climate sub-type located in high latitudes and high mountains. It is a climate which at least one month has an average temperature high enough to melt snow (0 °C), but no month with an average temperature in excess of 10 °C. In a polar context, winters are long and cold and summers are short and cool. Most precipitation falls as snow.

Temperatures are frequently extremely cold, but can get warm in the summers. Tundra winters are long, dark, and cold, with mean temperatures below 0°C for six to 10 months of the year. The temperatures are so cold that there is a layer of permanently frozen ground below the surface, called permafrost.

It is important to note the existence of another variation called alpine tundra. Alpine tundra refers to the tundra environment found at high altitudes, usually above the treeline. It is mostly located at high elevation grass and shrublands, including the puna and paramo in South America, steppes of the Tibetan plateaus, as well as other similar subalpine habitats around the world. This type of tundra climate exhibits similar characteristics to its polar counterpart but is specifically associated with elevated landscapes. 

Rainfall and snowfall are generally slight due to the low vapour pressure of water in the chilly atmosphere.

Examples of airports with a Tundra climate include Resolute, Nunavut, Canada, Thule, GreenlandWainwright, Alaska, USA, Svalbard/Longyear, Norway, Qamdo Banda, Tibet

Tundra climate map

Köppen–Geiger climate classification map for tundra climates - source: wikicommons, authors:  Maulucioni, based on previous work by Beck, H.E., Zimmermann, N. E., McVicar, T. R., Vergopolan, N., Berg, A., & Wood, E. F., 2018

Flight safety and planning considerations

Operations in low temperatures bring numerous challenges. Although there is little precipitation, airframe icing is still a threat. Pay careful attention to Altimeter Temperature Error and beware of optical illusions when flying VFR in an ice cap/ice sheet environment. Tundra regions close to open water are frequently affected by advection fog

Related articles


SKYbrary Partners:

Safety knowledge contributed by: