Overlap of global Köppen-Geiger climates, biomes, and soil orders

Robert V. Rohli, T. Andrew Joyner, Stephen Reynolds, Thomas J. Ballinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Climate types, biome types, and soil orders are commonly used among physical geographers in research and to describe natural environmental characteristics. However, little attempt has been made to quantify the percentage of global land surface that is covered by combinations of climate types, biomes, and soil orders. This research overlays a world map of 31 climate types produced based on the Köppen-Geiger criteria using gridded NCAR/NCEP reanalysis monthly mean surface air temperature and precipitation data from 1981 to 2010 with global maps of eight biomes adapted from World Wildlife Federation and 12 soil orders from United States Natural Resources Conservation Service. Areas covered by each of the 2976 combinations are then calculated. Results suggest that, as expected, a few climate/biome/soil combinations are most common, such as desert climate/desert biome/entisols, tundra climate/tundra biome/gelisols, and desert climate/desert biome/aridisols. The local nature of soil properties causes small enclaves of unexpected combinations of climate, biome, and soils, and the 10 most extensive climate/biome/soil combinations occupy only one-quarter of the global land surface. The strong correspondence between climate and biome types validates the Köppen-Geiger criteria for categorizing climates based on vegetation realms, even today, despite the general paucity of data available when the criteria were established.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)158-175
Number of pages18
JournalPhysical Geography
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 4 2015


  • biomes
  • Köppen-Geiger climate types
  • physical geography
  • polygon overlay
  • soil taxonomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Overlap of global Köppen-Geiger climates, biomes, and soil orders'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this