has an arid desert climate typical of its location in the Middle East. Due to the size of the country, topographical variation and
its two coast lines, Saudi
Arabia does see some regional variation in
climate. However, most of the country is flat, sandy desert and every part of
the country experiences high temperatures and minimal rainfall year round.
Winters are unbearably hot and summers are even worse. The country takes up
eighty percent of the Arabian Peninsula. It
shares southern borders with Yemen,
Oman and the United Arab Emirates, and northern borders with Jordan, Iraq
Its eastern border is mostly with the Persian Gulf though the small country of Qatar sits on a
peninsula on this coast. Its western border is with the Red Sea.
March till October, is no picnic. No matter how much of a sun-worshipper you
are, the inferno that is the Saudi Arabian summer is not a pleasant holiday
destination. What were you thinking? This is a desert. In Mecca the average high temperature increases
from an already unpleasant 39°C to an upsetting peak of
41°C in June and July. The heat then relents slightly but only gets below 40°C
in September, reaching 37°C in October. There are regional variations in
temperature depending on proximity to the coast. Jeddah, on the Red Sea coast,
does not see average highs above 38°C, but Riyadh, in the middle of the country,
receives an average high of 43°C in July and August. Away from water, the
desert can spike up into the low 50s. The Gulf coast is not as ‘cool’ as the Red Sea coast as its waters are shallow and enclosed by
land, and so heat up easily in the summer. Night time temperatures drop around
10°C from day time highs in coastal areas and by about 15°C in inner regions.
This is due to higher levels of insolation caused by more extreme aridity.
These large reductions in temperature provide little relief as while
comparatively cooler they are by no means anything but hot.
The interior of the country has very
low humidity due to the complete absence of water, but in coastal areas the air
becomes stiflingly heavy with moisture. Humidity is well-known for making you
feel the heat so while it might be cooler by the coast it often feels much
hotter. If you spend any time outdoors you will find yourself drenched in your
own sweat in moments; heat stroke and dehydration are real concerns. Higher
humidity around the coast is due to the evaporation of sea water, which also
leads to hazy conditions if not all-out fog. Mist is common in the day,
thickening to a dense fog at night, do not think for a second that this might
be cooling; it prevents the evaporation of your sweat which is the whole point
of sweating in the first place.
The north prevailing winds often
provide slight but much-needed relief in coastal areas, but the season also
receives the hot, moist, southwest wind, or the shammal: the strong
north-westerly wind. The shammal is particularly strong at the beginning of the
season and in eastern regions of Saudi Arabia. Any strong wind can
blow clouds of dust into the air or whip up great sandstorms, but the shammal
is the usual culprit. These storms cause surface erosion, general wind damage,
reduce visibility and paralyse transport. They are also rather hard on the skin
and in the eyes.
from November till April, is cooler but still hot, especially towards the
coast. The average high temperature in Mecca
drops to 33°C in November, bottoms at 29°C in January and rises up to 26°C in
April. Red Sea coastal areas see temperatures just a few degrees below those in
Mecca, while interior regions are much cooler; Riydah’s average high drops
rapidly to 28°C in December and 20°C in January before hurrying back up to 33°C
in April; away from the sea, there is nothing to temper seasonal temperature
changes. Lower humidity again results in larger drops in night time
temperatures in interior regions. Riydah sees an average low of 8°C in January
while it does not get below 20°C in Jeddah. Clearly, Saudi Arabia is more bearable in
the winter, though the large deserts can get very cold. It can get down to 0°C.
While this is rare the low humidity and high wind can make the felt temperature
fall below freezing. Frost and snow occasionally occur.
It is a little cloudier in the winter
and sunshine levels drop from summer’s average of ten hours per day to around
eight. Despite the added clouds, rainfall only increases infinitesimally. The
flat landscape does little to encourage rainfall and parts of the desert can go
for years without rain. Rain is usually restricted to a couple of dramatic,
localised downpours per winter. Annual average rainfall is 100 mm but this
changes from year to year and region to region. When it does rain ravines and
usually dry wadis flood and water slips through the sand dunes. While winter is
comparatively rainier than summer, it would be a fallacy to consider it a wet
season. The country is entirely arid, even more so in fact considering the drop
in humidity, and strong winds still worry the desert into immense sandstorms.
The mountains of Saudi Arabia,
stretching along the west and northern borders, have much cooler climates,
temperatures dropping with increases in altitude. The highest peaks are in the
southwest and these are snow-capped for much of the year. They also receive
slightly higher rainfall which has led to more fertile regions in the lowlands
surrounding the mountains. These also act as barriers to wind. The western
mountains are at a slight northwest/southeast angle which is why the Red Sea coast, to the east of the mountains is hotter
than might be expected of a coastal region. To the south the mountains prevent
the monsoons from travelling further into the country, depriving it of rain.
Asir and Najran, in the southwest,
south of the mountains, are somewhat affected by the monsoons of the Indian
Ocean and receive much higher rainfall than the rest of Saudi Arabia,
with an annual average of 300 mm.