Climatic niche breadth (the range of climatic conditions that a species experiences over space and time) is a fundamental topic in ecology, biogeography and evolution. But what determines the climatic niche width of species? In 1967, Janzen suggested that climatic niche widths for temperature were determined by levels of seasonal fluctuation in temperature at each locality, such that niche breadths are narrow in tropical species and broad in temperate species. However, it is unclear whether climatic niche breadths of species are determined more by seasonal variability within sites as opposed to climatic variation between sites across the species’ range. We address this question here.