Situated on the Pacific coast between latitudes 40 and 60 N. is a zone that receives abundant rainfall from maritime polar air masses and has a rather narrow range of temperatures because it borders on the ocean.
Trewartha (1968) classifies the marine west coast climate as Do--temperate and rainy, with warm summers. The average temperature of the warmest month is below 72F (22C), but at least 4 months per year have an average temperature of 50F (10C). The average temperature during the coldest month of the year is above 32F (0C). Precipitation is abundant throughout the year, but is markedly reduced during summer (see Appendix 2, climate diagram for Astoria, Oregon). Although total rainfall is not great by tropical standards, the cooler air temperatures here reduce evaporation and produce a very damp, humid climate with much cloud cover. Mild winters and relatively cool summers are typical. Coastal mountain ranges influence precipitation markedly in these middle latitudes. The mountainous coasts of British Columbia and Alaska annually receive 60 to 80 in (1,530 to 2,040 mm) of precipitation and more. Heavy precipitation greatly contributed to the development of fiords along the coast: heavy snows during the glacial period fed vigorous valley glaciers that descended to the sea, scouring deep troughs that reach at their lower ends below sea level.
Natural vegetation in the Marine Division is needleleaf forest. In the coastal ranges of the Pacific Northwest, Douglas-fir, redcedar, and spruce grow to magnificent heights, forming some of the densest of all coniferous forests with some of the world's largest trees.
Soils are strongly leached, acid Inceptisols and Ultisols. Due to the region's cool temperatures, bacterial activity is slower than in the warm tropics, so vegetative matter is not consumed and forms a heavy surface deposit. Organic acids from decomposing vegetation react with soil compounds, removing such bases as calcium, sodium, and potassium.