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DOKDO ISLAND
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Air temperature

The climate of Korea is characterized by two distinct seasons: cold-and-dry winters and warm-and-moist summers. This monsoonal East Asian climate is a result of a combination of a mid-latitudinal location, peninsula configuration, and proximity to the Pacific Ocean. The annual mean temperature is lower than that of other countries at similar latitudes. The spatial pattern of annual mean temperature reveals that air temperature decreases from south to north due to the effects of latitude (Figure 5-1).

The highest annual mean temperature is found at Seogwipo, and temperatures of southern coastal areas are higher than those of other areas of the Korean Peninsula. Air temperature is lower in the inland areas than along the coasts. The presence of warm ocean currents in the East Sea makes the air temperatures on the east coast warmer compared to along the west coast. For instance, Yeongdeok and Boryeong are located at similar latitudes, but Yeongdeok (12.7°C) on the east coast is warmer than Boryeong (12.1°C) by 0.6°C. Likewise, Uljin and Gangneung, two cities on the east coast, are warmer than Seosan and Incheon on the west coast by 0.7°C and 1.2°C, respectively.

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The mean monthly temperature pattern for January, the coldest month of the year, is similar to the annual mean temperature pattern, except the north-south temperature gradient is greater for January. The temperature difference between Jeju, a southern station, and Cheorwon, a northern station, in January is about 11°C (Figure 5-2). East-west temperature difference is greater in winter due to the influence of mountain ranges. Boeun and Cheorwon, located in the west and separated by the Taebaek Mountain Range from the eastern cities of Yeongdeok and Sokcho at similar latitudes, are colder than Yeongdeok and Sokcho by 4.3°C and 5.1°C, respectively. In August, the warmest month, the temperature increases as North Pacific air masses move inland. As a result, the temperature gradient decreases in summer with the temperature difference between Jeju and Cheorwon now only 2°C (Figure 5-2).

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Precipitation

The major producers of precipitation in Korea include mid-latitude cyclones, monsoonal fronts (called ‘Changma’), and typhoons. These systems, along with mountains, influence the spatial pattern of precipitation. The national average annual precipitation is about 1,300 mm, but mountain ranges cause significant spatial variations in precipitation. The total annual precipitation for Seogwipo, for example, is 1,800 mm whereas that of North Gyeongsang Province (Gyeongsangbuk-do) the driest province of the nation, is only about 1,000 mm (Figure 5-3).

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The total annual precipitation generally decreases with increasing latitude, but it is more strongly influenced by local factors than annual mean temperature. Jejudo (Jeju Island), along the southern coast, Jirisan, and the northeastern coast of the Gangwon Province (Gangwon-do) are the wettest areas with more than 1,400 mm per year.

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The nation’s precipitation is strongly influenced by the Asian monsoon during the summer months. As Changma fronts, typhoons, and mid-latitude cyclones pass over the nation, they produce heavy rainfall. The spatial pattern of summer precipitation is similar to the total annual precipitation, and the wettest areas include Jejudo, the southern coastal areas, Daegwallyeong, Seoul, Ganghwa, and Cheorwon. Summer precipitation on Ulleungdo and Dokdo is 381.8 mm and 265.7 mm, respectively, and these islands are relatively dry (Figure 5-4). In winter, most areas of Korea are dry, but the southwest, Jejudo, and Ulleungdo, have significant amounts of snow. The wettest location in winter is Ulleungdo, where precipitation is 296.1 mm, and it accounts for about 25% of the total annual precipitation on the island.

Wind and other climate characteristics

The prevailing winds in Korea are westerly. However, northwesterly winds become dominant in winter, while southerly winds are common in summer due to the monsoonal effect. In spring and fall, when the monsoons shift between the summer and winter months, no one wind direction dominates, but westerly winds are relatively stronger than the others. Wind speeds are strong along coastal areas, and they decrease inland. Seasonally, winds are stronger in winter than in summer (Figure 5-5).

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Snowfall is more strongly influenced by topography and oceanic moisture sources than other climate elements. The amount of snow also varies widely. Snowfall is a significant proportion of the total annual precipitation along the southwestern coast, Ulleungdo, and Jejudo. Snowfall occurs on Ulleungdo and Jejudo when mid-latitude cyclones pass over these areas or the Siberian high pressure system expands (Lee Seungho, 2007). In the Yeongdong area on the central east coast, snow is formed at the time of the passage of migratory high pressure systems. Annual snowfall is highest in Daegwallyeong (243.1 cm) followed by Ulleungdo (232.8 cm). However, the number of days with heavy snowfall, which is defined as daily snowfall of 5cm or more, is greater on Ulleungdo (14 days/year) than in Daegwallyeong. The frequency of heavy snowfall is very low in major metropolitan cities and the southeastern regions of Korea (Figure 5-6).

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The number of typhoons influencing Korea varies from year to year. But on average, only two or three typhoons influence the nation each year, and only one of them causes property damage and casualties. Typhoons approach the nation most frequently in August, followed by July and September, although they develop from June to October (Figure 5-7). Damage by typhoons results from strong wind gusts and torrential rainfall. Since typhoons are typically hundreds of kilometers wide, damage may affect a large area of the nation adjacent to the region of highest wind speeds. The amount of precipitation during a typhoon event varies significantly depending on its path. If it migrates toward the northeast while crossing the southwest coast of Korea, ample precipitation occurs on Ulleungdo and Dokdo.
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