Koppen Climate System

Köppen's climate classification was first published by Russian German climatologist Wladimir Köppen in 1884. German climatologist Rudolf Geiger (1954, 1961) collaborated with Köppen on changes to the classification system, which is sometimes called the Köppen?Geiger system.

Köppen was the father in law of Alfred Wegener, who developed the theory of continental drift. Much of Wegener's evidence lay in paleoclimates and the past distribution of plants and animals, perhaps reflecting Köppen's influence.

The Köppen climate classification scheme divides climates into five main climate groups: A (tropical), B (dry), C (temperate), D (continental), and E (polar). The second letter indicates the seasonal precipitation type, while the third letter indicates the level of heat. The A-B-D-E and categories correspond closely with latitude, with minor adjustments for ocean moderation and elevation, while the B climates can occur over a range of latitudes where there is insufficient rainfall.

Vector GIS data for Koppen climate

Map showing a point data base with locations of WMO stations with climate data, color coded by major Koppen classification.  Wikipedia and other online sources have tables with the necessary information to compute the classification categories, and to create a climograph, specialized graph showing montly temperature and precipitation.

Creating this database required a number of steps, and I am not aware of a single source in an easy format to use.

The distribution of stations is not uniform.  Coverage in Africa is very spotty, and there are some surprising voids in western Europe.  Countries have different idea about sharing climate data, and whether it should be free or must be purchased.
A climograph shows temperature in red (traditional thermometers have red liquid, and red is the color for heat), with a scale on the left, and  precipitation in blue (water is blue) with a scale on the right.

Gray lines show critical temperatures used in Koppen Classification.

The GIS needs special logic to construct a climograph.
  You can also plot monthly rain or temperature at the station locations, and see the shifting seasons.  This is another specialized operation, making use of the known fields with those parameters every month.

Create Climate Maps--using the fields in the database, and normal map plotting operations

January Temperatures Number of Warm Months Warmest month


Vector GIS data for Koppen climate


This is actually a point database, but the values are on a ½º by ½º grid with the Koppen climate class at each point on land, for the time period 1976 to 2000. The data comes from The Institute for Veterinary Public Health, University of Vienna; they have additional periods since climate does not appear to be static.

Storage as a table allows the color and category names to be included.  It also keeps the grid from trying to interpolate values.

This is not an equal area projection, but using the variable size of a ½º by ½º  which changes with latitude, you could compute the area covered by each category.


Last revised 1/5/2018