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Western Asia Weather Overview

Western Asia is also referred to as the Middle East and consists mostly of the countries on the Arabian Peninsula - an area of land that is comprised mainly of desert and plateaus and sees high temperatures and low rainfall. On the peninsula you will find the Arab Gulf states, some of the richest countries in the world.

The countries in this region are: Yemen, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Iraq and Iran. Some would also include Afghanistan, though this is largely considered part of Central Asia.

 

Saudi Arabia makes up the greater part of the Arabian Peninsula. It is largely low-lying with extremely low rainfall - particularly in the interior. As you move towards the south and hit the border of Yemen and Oman you will reach the mountainous region which is the only area of Saudi Arabia which sees annual rainfall in excess of 400mm. Elsewhere in the country annual precipitation rarely exceeds 200mm. Equatorial heat and extreme aridity have made most of Saudi Arabia, and most of Western Asia, into desert.

Saudi Arabia’s capital city, Riyadh, lies in the centre of the country, and in the centre of the peninsula. This is where the most extreme heat is experienced. In the summer months it is not uncommon for temperatures to exceed 45°C. In fact, the average high in the summer months from June to August is 42°C, which is frequently recorded on a daily basis. The average low during this time in Riyadh is 19°C which occurs once the sun has set. Across desert regions night time temperatures are a dramatic drop from the daytime highs due to a high level of insolation, the opposite of insulation, caused by aridity.

In the winter months in Riyadh, the diurnal temperature range feels even more dramatic; in summer temperatures range from quite hot to ridiculously hot, while in winter they range from hot to cold. The average daily temperature range is from a maximum of 21°C to a minimum of 8°C, across December and January. Temperatures below freezing are not uncommon, with the record January low being a bitter -8°C.

From June to December rainfall is scarce to nonexistent. February sees on average 20mm, which is similar to March and April, before dying off in May when only 10mm of rainfall is recorded. Across the year the city sees only 76mm of rain.

The only saving grace for the extreme heat in the summer months is the very low humidity. In the hottest months of July and August, the average humidity is a very low 26%, before picking up to the 30’s by September and October. The ‘wettest’ months of December and January peaks at 63%, but it generally hovers around 50%.

Humidity across the peninsula is low most of the year. However, as you near the coastal regions, while the temperatures may be lower due to the cooling influence of the water, the humidity is much higher. This produces very uncomfortable conditions which can actually be worse than the extreme heat in the inland.

 

To the south of Saudi Arabia, on the Red Sea, Arabian Sea and Gulf of Aden is the mountainous country of Yemen. The land in Yemen rises steeply from the coast up to 12,000 feet in the country’s interior. Here you will find temperatures much lower than anywhere else on the Arabian Peninsula. The weather in Yemen is actually quite pleasant and conditions could almost be classed as Mediterranean, as the winters are mild and the summers are warm. Though unlike typical Mediterranean climates, the summer months are the wetter months in Yemen.

In the interior, between the inland desert and the coast, there is a broad valley, Wadi Hadhramaut, which is one of the more densely populated areas in Yemen due to the fact that it receives quite a bit more rainfall than the desert areas inland and on the coast.

The southern coast has very low rainfall and the coastal strip is basically desert. Temperatures are high, and so is humidity. If you want to visit try to avoid to months from June to September as humidity is high and temperatures are frequently over 38°C. The high temperatures are moderated, fortunately by the sea breezes that blow across the coast and once you head inland, and the elevation increases, the temperatures drop a little.

Lying in the Persian Gulf, east of Saudi Arabia is the Kingdom of Bahrain. Bahrain is a flat and arid archipelago, which is home to a low desert plain that rises gently to an escarpment in the centre. The weather and climate in Bahrain are similar to that of the Persian Gulf coast of Saudi Arabia. April to October is the hottest period; combined with high humidity conditions are somewhat oppressive. Rainfall is low throughout the year; any rain falls between November and March. The weather is moderated by the warm winds that blow off the mainland, and the occasional cold winds that blow from Iran.

Lying north of Saudi Arabia where the peninsula meets the rest of Asia is the small country of Jordan. Jordan lies, almost landlocked, bordered by Syria in the north and Israel to the west. In the extreme south there is a short coastline on the Gulf or Aqaba.

Almost 90% of Jordan is desert. It has an annual rainfall below 200mm, falling in some places as low as 25mm. Summers in Jordan are hot with plentiful sunshine. Winters can occasionally get quite cold, but only at night, and at higher altitudes it is not uncommon to see snow fall.

The higher elevations in Jordan are in the northwest of the country, where some areas are above 3,300 feet. Because of its higher altitude and its proximity to the Mediterranean, this region sees the most rainfall in Jordan and is the most fertile area. In some areas rainfall will exceed 800m, though as you decrease in altitude it falls to 300mm. This rainfall will occur mainly between November and March. As a rule, precipitation increases as you move westward, closer to the Mediterranean.

Jordan’s weather is characterised by long clear sunny days. In the capital of Amman, the average daily hours of sunshine in the winter months are high at 6 or 7 hours, and the summer months see a remarkable 13 hours.

Amman is the largest city in Jordan and lies in the northwest of the country. It is the administrative capital and commercial centre of Jordan. It is located in a hilly area and was originally built across seven hills, but due to years of fast expansion it now spans over nineteen hills.

Amman enjoys four distinct seasons of excellent weather as its elevation has a cooling affect. Day time temperatures range from 28°C to about 35°C and the heat is tempered by low humidity and frequent breezes. The average high in the hottest months of July and August is 32°C, with the minimum in the night times falling to 18°C. Rainfall during this time is nonexistent and only begins to pick up slightly in October, before reaching about 4 days of rain with 33mm falling in November.

December to February sees daily highs of 13°C to 15°C, and minimums of 4°C to 6°C. It can fall below freezing and there are occasional days of snowfall – a regular occurrence at higher altitudes. February is the wettest month of the year, recording on average 74 mm of precipitation for the month.

The worst weather in Jordan occurs when it is reached by the hot dry winds from Arabia (called ‘the khamsin’ by locals). These blow typically in late summer; extreme heat and sandstorms are the result.

Hugged by Oman and Saudi Arabia is the United Arab Emirates. The capital of the UAE is Abu Dhabi and its largest city is Dubai. In recent years Dubai has attracted worldwide attention through its innovative real estate projects (such as the Palm Island), amazing hotels (the Burj Al Arab) and being the host city for a variety of sports events.

Dubai is hot, uncomfortably hot, throughout most of the year. Temperatures over 40°C are normal. The average high in the hottest months of July and August is 39°C, while even in the cooler months of ‘winter’ the average high is still in the mid 20’s and the minimum only falls to about 14°C.

During the summer months the water temperature is a bath-like 31°C. In the winter months the sea temperature is in the mid 20’s.

Rainfall is low throughout the year, though when it does fall it will usually fall in January. In fact, January 2008 saw a record 120 mm fall - which is astounding considering Dubai’s annual rainfall is usually a mere 150mm.

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