The globe is divided into three zones -- polar, temperate and tropical -- based on proximity to the equator and air masses, or large bodies of air with similar temperature, pressure and humidity.
Where in the World
The temperate zones are sandwiched between the tropical zone -- which wraps around the middle of Earth -- and the poles. Most of the United States is included in a temperate band.
Temperate zones have several different types of biomes -- ecosystems characterized by specific plant and animal populations. For instance, many acres of the United States are covered by temperate deciduous forest, which contains deciduous trees and such animals as wolves and bears. The plains of the Midwest constitute another type of biome: temperate grassland, or prairie. Parts of California have a biome called chaparral, which is covered with evergreen shrubs and subject to periodic wildfires.