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Southern Africa Weather Overview

Southern Africa is a hybrid of different climatic zones with terrain that ranges from grasslands to deserts and lowlands to coastal mountains. The region is home to the countries of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and the small nation of Lesotho which lies entirely within the Republic of South Africa.

The climates of this area range from arid desert to tropical to Mediterranean. It is generally hot with rainfall increasing towards the south and towards the coasts. As it lies south of the equator, areas far enough from the equator to see seasonal variation see a reversed pattern to that of the northern hemisphere; winter occurs during the UK summer and vice versa.

Botswana

In the northern part of this region is Botswana, an entirely landlocked country that lies north of South Africa and with Namibia to its west. Botswana is predominately flat though it rises northward towards a rolling table land.

Tourism plays a big role in Botswanaâs economy. Its game parks and nature reserves are the main attractions. You can see animals such as lions, tigers, giraffes, elephants, buffalo and cheetahs in their natural habitats, and, if you pay a premium, you can shoot them.

Taking up 70% of Botswana is the Kalahari Desert which is located largely in the southwest of the country. Although it is called a desert, it doesnât exhibit strictly desert conditions as there are parts of the region that see about 250mm of precipitation annually. In these areas the land is quite well vegetated and suitable for agriculture. Most of the desert is semi-arid to arid and covered in red dusty sand.

In the summer months all of Botswana, particularly in the arid parts of the Kalahari, the temperatures can rise to uncomfortable highs; days in excess of 40°C are not uncommon.

Botswanaâs capital and largest city is Gaborone which is increasingly modern and cosmopolitan. As in the rest of the country, the summers here are hot and the winters are mild though the evenings can be quite chilly.

Lying 400km north east of the capital, you will find the countryâs second largest city of Francistown. Here the conditions are slightly wetter than the south and west of the country. Rainfall generally increases the further you are from the Kalahari.

Francistown is known as the âcapital of the northâ and a lot of the countryâs main roads pass through it. It was the site of Africaâs first gold rush and now hosts vibrant nightlife (considering the size of the town), many cafes, restaurants and bars and a few 5 star hotels.

Francistown has a climate that is indicative of Botswanaâs northwest. The wettest time of the year falls between the months of December and January, when average precipitation is between 80 and 100mm per month. Rainfall picks up around November and remains quite high until the end of March, before dropping off almost completely in April and dwindling to nothing at all from July to September.

Most of the yearâs rainfall falls in the month of January which is also, on average, the hottest month of the year, with an average maximum of 31°C and minimum of 18°C. It is not uncommon for the mercury to sit about 40°C for several days.

The âwinterâ months of June, July and August, also the dry season, see daily maximums of 23°C - 26°C while the night time brings much cooler weather; minimums fall to 5°C to 7°C.

While it is quite hot all year round in Francistown, the humidity is relatively low which makes the heat more bearable. Humidity picks up in the rainy season, though it rarely gets above 74%. In the least humid months of the year (September and October) the average humidity will be just above 50%.

Namibia

Lying to the west of Botswana and north of South Africa is Namibia, which has a long coast on the Atlantic Ocean. Namibia only gained impendence from South Africa in 1990. Due to its harsh terrain and extreme climate, Namibia is the least densely populated country on the globe.

Along the Atlantic coast, you will find the Namib desert which is a broad expanse of sand dunes and hyper-arid gravel plains. This is home to the Skelton Coast- an arid, barren strip of coast famed for its scattering of sun-bleached whale and seal skeletons: a reminder of the whaling days. There are also almost 1000 ship wrecks scattered up this coast - a result of the pounding surf which makes sailing virtually impossible.

The west coast of Southern Africa is affected by the cool Benguela current from the Southern Ocean which gives rise to frequent dense fog along the coast. The fog is caused when warm winds from the interior hit the cold waters. It also prevents rainfall as the air over the ocean is cooler than over land.

On the Skeleton Coast no more than 10mm of rain falls across the whole year making it dry, windy and arid.

As you move further south down the west coast, the Benguela Current meets the warmer waters of the Angulhas Current and when this occurs, stormy unpredictable weather develops. This happens at the Cape of Good Hope in the very south of the African continent. This stormy weather with its staggering swells has made the Cape of Good Hope another ship graveyard.

Not all of Namibia is dry and arid, however. There is a central plateau which sees much more tolerable conditions and is where you will find the countryâs capital city of Windhoek. The central plateau is home to the highest point in Namibia.

In Windhoek, the capital and largest city, the climate is semi-arid and despite its high altitude (it sits 1665 m above sea level) the city has an annual average temperature of 19°C. Rainfall here is higher than on the coast, with Windhoek recording 360mm of rainfall annually.

South Africa

The largest and most economically influential country in this region is South Africa, which borders both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. It has a long coast line which stretches for more than 2500km and is home to a temperate climate which regional variations, largely depending on the mountains and proximity to the two oceans.

In the far northwest you will find desert conditions and desert terrain. The east coast sees lush subtropical conditions and as you move into the interior plateau you will find semi-arid conditions. The interior of the country is vast, flat and very sparsely populated.

See the weather averages for Johannesburg for an idea of interior conditions, and compare these to those of Durban which lies on the eastern coast.

In the extreme south of the country a Mediterranean climate prevails, which has wet, but mild winters and hot, drier summers. This area is also a popular wine making region. See here for conditions in Cape Town, which lies on the southwest coast. Near the Cape of Good Hope the wind is strong year round.

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