What Are the Economic Uses of the Humid Subtropics?

by Tamara Wilhite; Updated September 26, 2017
Excellent growing conditions characterize the humid subtropics.

The warm climate of humid subtropics results in a long growing season for agricultural and industrial crops. The high agricultural production of the humid subtropics has allowed many large cities to rise in these areas. Local economic uses are primarily driven by the agricultural potential of the humid subtropics, both for food and industrial crops.


Humid subtropics experience mild winters that rarely go below freezing. Unlike the tropics, humid subtropics do not have a dry season. However, the monsoon effect does lead to increased rainfall during monsoon season in the humid subtropics of Asia. The humid subtropics are located on the east side of the continents within the subtropical region because of air flow patterns in those areas. The tropical air currents affect the temperature and precipitation in the humid subtropics.


The long growing season coupled with high rainfall that reduces the need for irrigation favors agricultural activity in the humid subtropics. Fruit production is common in the humid subtropics. Citrus fruits like lemons and oranges grow well in this climate. Avocados also grow here. According to the authors of “Rice Almanac,” “rice is the dominant food crop in the humid subtropics, humid tropics, and subhumid tropics, where it makes up half to three-quarters of the area under food grains.”

Industrial Crops

Slaves in the southern U.S. raised tobacco, which grew well in the humid subtropics there.

Tobacco and cotton grow well in the humid subtropical climate. Deciduous and evergreen trees also grow quickly in the humid subtropics. Both managed tree plantations and logging of wild forests are a major economic activity in this climate zone. Pine tree products like pitch, tar and turpentine are produced in these areas. Jute and sisal, raised for fiber, also grow in humid subtropical environments. Biofuel crops like sugar cane and subtropical jatropha are rising in importance in the humid subtropics.


The humid subtropics can be a winter haven for those from cooler climates, providing warm weather without the oppressive heat of the tropics. In areas with a waterfront, mountains or scenery, the humid subtropics are ripe for tourism since they are open for travel year round. Examples of tourist destinations in humid subtropic regions include Florida in the United States, Buenos Aires in Argentina and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

Population Centers

From Agra in India to Shanghai in China to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, many of the largest cities in the world are based in humid subtropical regions. According to the authors of “Demography: A Treatise in Population,” “in the early 1960s, Jozef Staszewski showed that the highest demographic densities (on average, 60 persons per square kilometer) were found in humid temperate climates and humid subtropical climates.” Port cities in this climate zone, like Venice and Buenos Aires, also benefit from being ice-free year round. Other industries in these cities depend on available natural resources, industrial development and infrastructure.

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