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Africa Weather Overview

The climate across Africa exhibits a number of different weather extremes and in addition to several different climates. Taking up 30,221,532 km and spreading evenly north and south across the equator, it is not hard to understand why so many different weather patterns can prevail.

The large majority of Africa hosts an arid desert climate, though subtropical, subtropical and Mediterranean conditions are also present in various places across the continent.

Northern Africa is a combination of Mediterranean and arid climates, as you move south into Central and Southern Africa the land is made up of savanna plains and parts host dense jungle and rainforest areas. The conditions are then split between arid and desert to a mix of tropical and sub tropical.

Parts of Northern Africa see beautiful Mediterranean climates that are characterized by long hot summers and shorter, mild winters. The weather along the Mediterranean coasts of Algeria, Tunisia Libya and parts of Egypt is enviable and are popular tourist spots for those that want to travel somewhere a bit less "mainstream". On the north east coast, where you will find Morocco and Western Sahara the conditions are perfect for holidaying all year round - and off the coast of this region you will find the islands of "eternal springs" - the Spanish Canary Islands.

On the north coast, along the Mediterranean Sea and parts of the Atlantic Ocean the conditions are fairly mild, but can get particularly hot in the height of summer, however as you move south and head into inland Africa conditions become much more harsh and desert arid weather begins to prevail.

Most of Northern Africa is made up of the Sahara desert- the world second largest desert (only after Antarctica) which spreads for 9 million square kilometers across the Red Sea to the Atlantic Ocean and a few small parts of the Mediterranean Coast.

The Sahara Desert is home to some of the harshest weather in the world - the temperatures reach extreme highs into the 40's and sometimes even the 50's, rain is scarce and dust and sand storms are common, a result of the prevailing north easterly winds in the area. In some parts of the desert there are yearly long dry periods where rainfall is nonexistent for very long periods of time - then sporadically the region will see a heavy torrential downpour of rain, followed by another prolong dry spell.

Parts of Northern Africa do see much cooler conditions, mainly found at the peaks of the Atlas Mountains which spread across Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia and act as a border between the Mediterranean /Atlantic coasts and the Sahara desert.

Lying south of the Northern African countries is the "Sahel Belt' which is an area, or an eco-region, that is made up of over 3 million square kilometers spreading from the Atlantic ocean in the west of the Red Sea in the east. It acts as a divide between the Sahara desert in the north and the more fertile areas of Southern Africa.

The Sahel Belt encompasses the countries of Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, and Eritrea and sees distinct seasonal variations of rain and temperatures. In general rainfall in Africa increases as you head south, but in the Sahel Belt most rainfall occurs during the monsoon season which lasts from May through until September.

Temperatures in this area range from minimums of 18 to 21 degrees to maximums of 33 to 36 degrees. In winter you can expect dust storms and the hot dry winds off the Sahara desert reek havoc in the region.

The rainfall in the area means that much of the belt is made up of grass land and savanna and you can find grass cover across much of the region.

Moving into Central Africa you will near the equator, and the countries that are split by the equator experience very little weather differences across the year. These countries are Gabon, Congo, Zaire, Uganda and Kenya.

Nigeria, which lies on the west coast sees a pretty varied climate across the year- made up of two wet seasons and two dry seasons, high humidity and high temperatures. The humidity is off particular discomfort on the coast, and when combined with high temperatures this can be of rather high discomfort.

The west coast of Nigeria is the wettest part of the country, whereas everywhere else in the country sees much short rainy periods. The driest periods of the year fall between December to Feb and then from July until September, whereas the wettest periods are generally May and June and picks up again come October.

Nigeria and surrounding country is and in line of the migration of an inter tropical cloud belt which brings with it lower temperatures, higher rainfall and humid conditions- this generally prevails twice a year which is what divides the year up into two dry seasons and two wet seasons.

On the Eastern coast of Central Africa you will find the countries of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. These areas generally enjoy a tropical climate, though the weather does increase in harshness as you head further inland. Conditions become less varied year round as you move toward the equator.

In Ethiopia the varied elevation is what has the main affect on different climate zones, the country itself is split into some very high mountainous regions (the Semien and Dale mountain ranges) and the lowest region in the whole of Africa- the Danakil depression.

Generally speaking, areas in excess of 7900 feet see temperature ranges from freezing to 16 degrees, areas of 4900 ft to 7900 feet see ranges from about 16 degrees to 30 degrees, and in the lowlands these are the "hot zones' which see tropical arid conditions. In these hot zones the mercury will rise to about 50 degrees and the annual temperature range sits at about 27 to 50 degrees.

Moving further south, into Kenya, conditions become much less changeable as you are moving further into the tropics and directly beneath the equator.  Kenya is hot and humid on the coast, temperate once you begin to move inland and parts of the north can get very very dry and exhibit arid conditions.

Despite much of the region being classed as arid and tropical, it does see a huge amount of rainfall from March to May, so keep this in mind if traveling during this period an be sure to pack sufficient wet weather gear.

Moving into Southern Africa, weather is more tropical than in the very north of Africa and rainfall increases as you head further south. On the very southern coasts of the continent the weather exhibit Mediterranean like conditions in parts.

Angola, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe South Africa and Mozambique lie in the south with Madagascar lying off the east coast.

Some parts of Angola witness unusual weather conditions for its latitude, especially on the coast. The cold Benguela current which flows from south to north along south Atlantic shore causes an almost total absence of rain on the coast of Namibia to the south then into Angola nearing the tropic of Capricorn. This current also brings with it lower temperatures.

Moving into South Africa you will find the eastern shores are warmed by the Agulhas current, flowing southwards from tropical latitudes; while the coasts western counterpart is  cooled by the previously mentioned Benguela current, which flows northwards from the cold southern ocean surrounding Antarctica.

Madagascar is a 587,041 square kilometer island which lies in the Indian Ocean off the East coast of southern Africa. The island sees are two seasons: a hot, rainy season which lasts from November to April, and a cooler, drier season that is from May to October.

The east coast of the island is export to the trade winds which keep the region wet for much of the year. If you see the average conditions fro Toamasina, on the east coast, you can get an idea of what sort of conditions prevail.

On the south west of the island you will find lowlands which only receive between 400-800 mm of rainfall annually, most of which falls between December and March. See the average conditions for Antananarivo which is the islands capital and lies on the west coast.

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