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    A country of diverse topography and climate

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    APacificIslandCountry
    JapanisanislandcountryforminganarcinthePacificOceantotheeastoftheAsiancontinent.Thelandcomprisesfourlargeislandsnamed(indecreasingorderofsize)Honshu,Hokkaido,Kyushu,andShikoku,togetherwithmanysmallerislands.ThePacificOceanliestotheeastwhiletheSeaofJapanandtheEastChinaSeaseparateJapanfromtheAsiancontinent.
    Intermsoflatitude,JapancoincidesapproximatelywiththeMediterraneanSeaandwiththecityofLosAngelesinNorthAmerica.ParisandLondonhavelatitudessomewhattothenorthofthenortherntipofHokkaido.
    Japan’stotallandareaisabout378,000squarekilometers.ItisthusapproximatelythesamesizeasGermany,Finland,Vietnam,orMalaysia.Itisonly1/25thesizeoftheUnitedStatesandissmallerthanthestateofCalifornia.
    Japan’scoastlineisquitevaried.Insomeplaces,suchasKujukurihamainChibaPrefecture,therearelongsandybeachescontinuingfairlystraightanduninterrruptedfor60kilometersorso,whilethecoastofNagasakiPrefectureisanexampleofanarea
    Geography
    Web Japan
    http://web-japan.org/
    GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE
    A country of diverse topography and climate
    characterizedbypeninsulasandinletsandoffshoreislands(liketheGotoarchipelagoandtheislandsofTsushimaandIki,whicharepartofthatprefecture).TherearealsoaccidentedareasofthecoastwithmanyinletsandsteepcliffscausedbythesubmersionofpartoftheformercoastlineduetochangesintheEarth’scrust.
    AwarmoceancurrentknownastheKuroshio(orJapanCurrent)flowsnortheastwardalongthesouthernpartoftheJapanesearchipelago,andabranchofit,knownastheTsushimaCurrent,flowsintotheSeaofJapanalongthewestsideofthecountry.Fromthenorth,acoldcurrentknownastheOyashio(orChishimaCurrent)flowssouthalongJapan’seastcoast,andabranchofit,calledtheLimanCurrent,enterstheSeaofJapanfromthenorth.ThemixingofthesewarmandcoldcurrentshelpsproduceabundantfishresourcesinwatersnearJapan.
    ALandofhotspringsandattractive
    scenary
    Aboutthree-fourthsofJapan’slandsurfaceismountainous.TheChubuRegionofcentralHonshuisknownas“theroofofJapan”andhasmanymountainswhicharemorethan3,000metershigh.
    Japan’shighestmountainisMt.Fuji(3,776meters)ontheborderofYamanashiandShizuokaprefectures.Japan’ssecond-highestpeakisKitadakeinYamanashiPrefecture,at3,192meters,anditsthird-highestpeakisHotakadakeat3,190meters,ontheborderbetweenNaganoandGifuprefectures.
    Mt. Fuji
    Japan’s highest peak, Mt. Fuji, is seen here from Lake Kawaguchi in April. It remains covered in snow until June.
    1GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE
    mountainsoftheChuburegionthrough
    NiigataPrefecturetotheSeaofJapan.SecondinlengthistheToneRiver,whichflowsthroughtheKantoPlaintothePacificOcean,andthirdinlengthistheIshikariRiverinHokkaido,at268kilometers.
    ThemanyriversdescendingfrommountainousareashavedonemuchtomoldJapan’stopography,creatinglargeandsmallvalleysandbasinsandproducingfan-shapeddeltasnearthepointswheretheyflowintothesea.Mostofthecountry’splainsaresmall.ThelargestistheKantoPlain,whichincludespartsofTochigi,Ibaraki,Gunma,Saitama,Chiba,Tokyo,andKanagawaprefectures.OtherrelativelylargeareasofflatlandaretheEchigoPlain(NiigataPrefecture),theIshikariPlain(Hokkaido),andtheNobiPlain(AichiandGifuprefectures).
    AmajorfeatureofJapan’sclimateistheclear-cuttemperaturechangesbetweenthefourseasons.Fromnorthtosouth,Japancoversarangeoflatitudeofsome25degreesandisinfluencedinthewinterbyseasonalwindsblowingfromSiberiaandinthesummerbyseasonalwindsblowingfromthePacificOcean.Inspiteofitsrathersmallarea,Japanischaracterizedbyfourdifferentclimaticpatterns.
    Hokkaido,withasubarcticweatherpattern,hasayearlyaveragetemperatureofeightdegreescentigradeandreceivesanaverageannualprecipitationof1,150millimeters.ThePacificOceansideofJapan,fromtheTohokuregionofnorthernHonshutoKyushu,belongstothetemperatezone,anditssummersarehot,influencedbyseasonalwindsfromthePacific.ThesideofthecountrywhichfacestheSeaofJapanhasaclimatewithmuchrainandsnow,producedwhencold,moisture-bearingseasonalwindsfromthecontinentarestoppedintheiradvancebytheCentralAlpsandothermountainswhichrunalongJapan’scenterlikeabackbone.ThesouthwesternislandsofOkinawaPrefecturebelongtothesubtropicalclimatezoneandhaveayearlyaveragetemperateofover22degrees,whilereceivingover2,000millimetersofprecipitation.
    Asitissituatedalongthecircum-Pacificvolcanicbelt,Japanhasseveralvolcanicregions—usuallyconsideredtonumberseven—fromthefarnorthtothefarsouth.Ofthetotalnumberofvolcanoes,approximately80areactive,includingMt.MiharaonIzuOshimaisland,Mt.AsamaontheborderbetweenNaganoandGunmaPrefectures,andMt.AsoinKumamotoPrefecture.Japanhasalmost1/10oftheworld’sapproximately840activevolcanoes,eventhoughithasonlyaboutl/400oftheworld’slandarea.Mt.Fuji,whichhasbeendormantsinceitslasteruptionin1707,isbynomeansincapableoferuptingagaininourlifetimes.
    Thoughvolcanoescancausegreatharmthroughlargeeruptions,theyalsocontributeanincalculabletouristresource.TouristicareassuchasNikko,Hakone,andtheIzuPeninsula,forexample,arefamousfortheirhotspringsandattractivesceneryofvolcanicmountains.
    Asallthesevolcanoesattest,theEarth’scrustbeneaththeJapanesearchipelagoisunstableandfullofenergy.ThusJapanisamongthosecountriesmostlikelytosufferfromearthquakes.Everyyearthereareapproximately1,000earthquakeswhicharestrongenoughtobefelt.InJanuary1995,theGreatHanshin-AwajiEarthquakekilledapproximately6,000people,injuredover40,000,andleft200,000homeless.AnearthquakeinNiigataPrefectureinOctober2004leftover60peopledeadandmorethan4,700injured.InMarch2011,amagnitude9earthquakewasrecordedoffthecoastofSanriku(Tohoku)inthePacificOcean,andtheensuingtsunami,morethan10mhighinplaces,hitthecoastacrossavastregionfromTohokutoKanto.Thenumberofdeadandmissingaftertheearthquakeandtsunamireachednearly19,000.
    Fast-FlowingRivers
    MountainousJapanisblessedwithmanyrivers.MostofJapan’sriversflowveryfast,theirwatersreachingtheoceannotlongafterleavingmountainvalleysandbasins.Anexampleofthe“steepness”ofriverflowsistheKurobeRiver,whichjoinstheSeaof
    Japanafterflowingonly83kilometersfromitssourceintheJapanAlpsatanaltitudeofover2,900meters.
    Japan’slongestriveristheShinanoRiver,whichflows367kilometersfromthe
    Climate
    2GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE
    Spring(March,April,May)
    Whenwinternearsitsend,thecoldseasonalwindsblowingfromthecontinentbecomeweakerandmoreintermittent.Atthistime,lowpressureairmassesoriginatinginChinaentertheSeaofJapan;thesegiverisetostrong,warmsoutherlywindswhichtraveltowardthislow-pressurezonefromthePacificOcean.Thefirstofthesewindsiscalledharuichiban.Whileitannouncesthewarmthofthecomingspring,itsometimescausesavalanchesand,crossingthemountainstothesideofthecountryfacingtheSeaofJapan,itisattimesresponsibleforexceptionallyhotanddryweatherandcanevenbecomethecauseoflargefires.
    Inearlyspring,plumblossomsstarttobloom,followedbypeachblossoms.DuringthelasttendaysorsoofMarch,thecherryblossomssobelovedbytheJapanesepeoplebegintobloom.
    Summer(June,July,August)
    Beforethearrivalofrealsummerlikeweather,Japanhasadamprainyseasonknownastsuyu.FromMayuntilJuly,thereisahigh-pressuremassofcoldairabovetheSeaofOkhotsktothenorthofJapan,whileoverthePacificOceantheredevelopsahigh-pressuremassofwarm,moistair.Alongthelinewherethesecoldandwarmairmassesmeet,knownasthebaiuzensen,or“rainyseasonfront,”thereoftendevelopareasoflow-pressurewarmair.Thusthebaiuzensen,whichextendsfromsouthernChinaovertheJapanesearchipelago,causesprolongedperiodsofcontinuousrainfall.
    AfterthemiddleofJuly,high-pressureairmassesoverthePacificOceanbecomepredominantandtherainyseasoncomestoanendasthebaiuzensenispushednorthward.SeasonalwindsfromthePacificOceanbringwarm,moistairtoJapan,andthecountryhashotsummerweatherwithmanydayswhentemperaturesrisetomorethan30degreescentigrade.
    Autumn(September,October,November)
    FromtheendofsummerthroughSeptember,Japanisoftenstruckbytyphoons.Typhoonsoriginatefromlargemassesoftropicallow-pressureairintheNorthPacificbetweenthelatitudesofapproximately5and20degrees,andarethesamephenomenonashurricanes
    Cherry blossoms
    Cherry blossoms—the symbol of spring in Japan.
    Firework displaysFirework displays like this one are an essential part of the Japanese summer.Shirakawa-go in WinterThe gassho-zukuri style farmhouses of Shirakawa village in Gifu Prefecture were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1995. (Photo courtesy of AFLO)
    Autumn leaves
    Colorful foliage is the symbol of autumn throughout Japan.andcyclonesinotherpartsoftheworld.Whenatyphoonbeginstotakeshape,itgraduallymovesnorth.Everyyear,duringthisperiod,around30typhoonsform,ofwhichontheaverageabout4reachJapan,sometimescausinggreatdestruction.AfterthemiddleorlatterpartofOctober,Japanenjoysgenerallyclearweather;itisneitherhotnorcold.ThecountryalsoenjoysespeciallyfineweatheratthebeginningofNovember.Manyofthetreestakeonbrightautumncolors,makingthistimeoftheyear,togetherwiththetimeofnewgreeneryinthespring,atrulybeautifulseason.Winter(December,January,February)TowardtheendofNovember,coldseasonalwindsbeginblowingoverJapanfromthecontinent.ThesenorthwesterlywindspickupmoistureovertheSeaofJapananddropmuchofthismoistureintheformofrainandsnowonthewesternsideofJapanastheyareimpededintheireasternadvancebytheridgeofmountainsthatrunsthroughthecentralpartofthecountry.TheHokurikuregion(Fukui,Ishikawa,Toyama,andNiigataprefectures),whichfacestheSeaofJapanandisseparatedfromotherregionsofJapanbyhighmountains,isknownforitsdeepsnows.Bycontrast,thePacificsideofthecountryenjoysgenerallyclearskiesduringthewinterseason.InTokyo,despitethefairskies,wintertemperaturesaveragearound5degrees,adifferenceof25degreesfromsummertemperaturesof30degreesormore.TheislandsofOkinawaPrefectureinthefarsouthwesthaveasubtropicalclimatewithlessmarkedtemperaturedifferencesbetweentheseasons.Wintertemperaturestherearemuchmoremoderatethaninotherpartsofthecountry.
    3GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE
    3GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE

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