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South-central Asia Weather Overview

 South-central Asia includes: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. As it covers such a large area the region envelopes many climatic regions, seeing from tropical to desert weather conditions depending on location. South-central Asia is largely semi-arid and desert. The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau encroaches on some eastern regions, bringing with it a harsh highland climate. Southern regions are sub-tropical with the extreme south seeing a true tropical climate. It goes without saying that each location owes its climate to its distance from the sea, proximity to the equator, surrounding topography and its own elevation. Therefore, even within a stable climatic region, smaller microclimates are often in existence which makes the affected areas atypical of their surrounding areas.

Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan in the west of this region are arid places with large areas of desert. Their climate is typified as receiving minimal rainfall, sharp fluctuations in temperature between night and day, blistering summers, mild winters and sandstorms. Most flat regions conform to this description, seeing average summer temperatures in the mid 40s in the day time dropping to the mid 20s at night. Winters usually see daytime temperatures around 20°C while at night it can get down to freezing. Winters are also when the sandstorms are most frequent, often shifting tons of sand hundreds of miles, sometimes dropping it on the surrounding urban areas. Any rainfall usually occurs between January and May. The deserts of these countries developed as a result of huge rain shadows thrown by the mountainous terrain. The many mountains, including the Himalayas trap monsoon winds and preventing them from passing over these areas. They also prevent the passage of Arctic winds which would cool the region.

Iranâs north coast meets the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, and its south coast is on the Caspian Sea. The north coast receives hot, humid summers of increased rainfall, and mild winters. The Caspian coastline, which is shared by Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, receives a sub-tropical climate. Otherwise the area is dominated by harsh deserts and rugged, high mountains. Higher elevations see much cooler temperatures and mountain peaks are covered in snow and ice. Areas near water are usually highly cultivated, making the most of this spare resource.

Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan for the most part share the climate of the north-western neighbours, but in the eastern areas of these countries a highland plateau sees colder temperatures and similarly low precipitation that often falls in the form of hailstorms. Most of Nepal is part of this plateau. While still seeing extremely high temperatures in the 40s in summer and mild winters around 2°C, Pakistanâs location on the Arabian Sea means it is susceptible to the monsoons of the Indian Ocean. While it is still a dry country, it is wetter than its northern neighbours.

India, Bangladesh and Bhutan receive warm, temperate climates and fall within the humid sub-tropical climatic zone. They receive all four seasons with a monsoon season occurring during the summer months from July till September, with a slight lag in this season from south to north due to the monsoon windsâ direction of travel. Because of the monsoon, these countries are sometimes described as having five seasons. The varied weather of these countries sees a constantly changing landscape with the growth cycle of rich vegetation. Summers are very hot and humid and winters can get quite cool with heavy snowfall in mountainous areas. Northwest India and a thin strip of land running from north to south India sees a return to the semi-arid conditions of north-western areas of south-central Asia, as the Western Ghats join the Deccan Plateau. Again, the largest topographical feature affecting the climate of these countries is the Himalayan Mountain range. They keep the area warm and keep the monsoons on their south, promoting heavy rainfall on the lower, southern regions right next to the Himalayas, known as the Terai region. Northern regions, being typically more mountainous, generally see lower temperatures and more winter snow than southern and coastal regions. Coastal regions can be at risk of hurricanes from April to December, with two peak risk times from April to June and from September to early December. Many of these areas were badly hit by the 2004 tsunami.

Sri Lanka, which lies to the southeast of Indiaâs southern tip, and the Maldives, which sit off to Indiaâs southwest, are tropical islands in the Indian Ocean. They receive hot and humid weather all year round and have two seasons: one wet, monsoon season from April to November, and one dry season from December to March. The temperature in both areas is usually around 30°C and humidity is generally uncomfortably high. These high temperatures are tempered by sea breezes all over the Maldives and in coastal regions of Sri Lanka. The Maldives form the lowest country in the world with a maximum altitude of 2.3m. This makes them particularly susceptible to the moderating effects of the sea, and they are usually a few degrees cooler than Sri Lanka. The lack of high land also means that dry season sunshine on these islands is rarely hampered by clouds. Coral reefs act as storm barriers but were no match for the 2004 tsunami that completely devastated them and much of Sri Lankaâs northern coast. The mountains on Sri Lanka cause higher precipitation levels on the northwest side of the island. Again, hurricanes are possible with peak risk times falling between April and June, September and early December.

Any area visited by monsoons sees rainfall concentrated in short torrential storms. This can cause flash flooding and landslides. Severe flooding in the southern regions of south-central Asia causes extensive damage and loss of life every year. As a tourist it is important to keep an eye on the weather and areas at higher risk of hurricanes and floods. Even if youâre going to laugh in the face of danger, flooding can cause restricting logistical problems in terms of transport and accommodation. It is also important to research the political status of these countries before travelling to them as many areas are prone to unrest which can sometimes lead to violence.

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