Eastern Africa Weather Overview
From beaches to mountains to vast plains, the region has a huge range of terrains and climates, as well as some of the worldâs rarest wildlife. The two tallest mountains in Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Kenya, lie in East Africa as well the second largest freshwater lake on the planet, Lake Victoria.
The climate of East Africa is typically equatorial with high temperatures year round and little seasonal variation, especially closer to the equator. Large variations in temperature are caused by altitude; it is cooler the higher you get. In Nairobi, Kenyaâs capital, daily highs average 25°C annually and lows 13°C. This is mild for an interior region and is due to Nairobiâs elevation. In Mombasa, on the coast and so around sea level, average annual temperatures are 30°C maximum and 22°C minimum.
Rainfall in the region varies a lot more. It is highest in the mountains and lowest in the north. Rainfall increases as you head south. As much of the wet weather comes from the west, the mountain ranges in East Africa cause a rain shadow effect making the land to the east dry and hot. The effect is especially felt in Somalia and Kenya; in northern Somalia, close to the border with Ethiopia, is one of the driest places with an annual rainfall of 130mm. On the coast and in the mountains in the south of the region you can see more than 1200mm a year.
There are two short rainy seasons in East Africa; one around April time, and the other in October and November. Rainfall is strongly influenced by the Inter-tropical Convergence Zone that streams low pressure around the equator.
Rainfall in the region is also affected by El Ni±o, and in years when this weather phenomenon prevails, East Africa receives more rainfall especially during the first rainy season of the year.
Eritrea and Djibouti
Eritrea has a hot and dry strip along the Red Sea coast. Here rainfall is very low and temperatures high. The central highlands are the wettest part of the country, though still see little more than 600mm annually. In the west is a semi-arid climate. The second rainy season, between June and September is the wettest time. The capital, Asmara, sits at 3000m and sees maximum temperatures of 26°C. It gets much hotter in the desert coastal area, sometimes up to 40°C.
Djibouti sees a similar climate, though it doesnât have any highlands. The country is mainly dry stony desert. Rainfall is low, averaging less than 130mm, and temperatures are high; daytime highs average over 35°C during the hottest period between October and April.
Somalia is located on the horn of Africa and has coasts on the Gulf of Aden as well as the Indian Ocean. Temperatures are hot year-round with exception at higher elevations located in the north. Rainfall is low, less than 500mm annually, but it is variable. The highlands receive a little more rain. There are two rainy seasons: April-June and October-November.
Temperatures typically range from 20°C at their lowest to 40°C on hot sunny days, of which there are plenty. The northern highlands can see greater temperature extremes however; it can be above 40°C in July, and drop below freezing in December. July to September is the hottest time of year and December to February the coolest.
Weather in Somalia is predominantly hot and dry and drought is a common problem each year. Life struggles in the harsh and arid climate. As there is a large nomadic population, weather (predominantly the rain) is central to much of Somalian life.
Kenyaâs climate is essentially tropical. This means it enjoys much higher rainfall and doesnât suffer from the arid conditions of the countries further north. The north and northeast regions are an exception, however, and are mainly very dry and desert-like.
Temperatures vary with elevation; Mt. Kenya stands at 5200m. Single figure temperatures are common in the higher areas, and it drops below freezing in the highest areas. The dry north plains are the hottest area with daily highs averaging almost 35°C across the year. The coastal regions, such as Mombasa, are hot too with daily highs averaging 30°C annually. The capital Nairobi has a more temperate climate, with temperatures generally between the low teens and high 30s, as it is quite high up. Nights and mornings can be cool in this area, though daily highs are still very hot.
Rainfall varies a lot across the country, from around 500mm in the dry north to more than 1200mm in Mombasa and other coastal regions. Yearly rainfall is about 1000mm in Nairobi and its surrounds and climbs to more than 1100m in the southern highlands of the country near to Kilimanjaro.
There are two rainy seasons, one lasting from April to June and the other from October and December. Rainfall is very low at all other times of the year. The rains typically fall in short heavy bursts in the late afternoon and evening.
Tanzania is a large country with a varied climate and geography, ranging from the (rapidly retreating) glaciers of Mt. Kilimanjaro in the northeast to vast lakes, to the hot and humid coastline. Like Kenya, Tanzania is famous for its stunning scenery and wildlife and is one of the best safari destinations in Africa. The country boasts Africaâs tallest mountain, Kilimanjaro, its largest lake, Victoria, and its deepest lake, Tanganyika.
You can find three main climates in Tanzania. There is a tropical climate on the coast, which features high humidity, hot temperatures averaging 27°C, and moderate to high rainfall that ranges between 1000mm and 2000mm. Tanzaniaâs capital Dar es Salaam is located on the east coast and falls into this category. There is a hot, dry climate in the central plateau which can see as little as 500mm rain a year. The highlands receive a temperate climate with slightly lower temperatures and more rainfall. The regions around the great lakes can see as much as 2500mm of rain a year. Temperatures vary more in the highlands with hot days and chilly nights.
In the north there are two rainy seasons, like in Kenya: one between March and May and the other in November and December. The south, however, only has one rainy season: between November and March.
The islands off the coast, such as Zanzibar, receive a tropical climate. The hot temperatures are relieved by cooling seas breezes. The rain falls in two seasons, though April and May sees the heaviest of the rainfall.
The popular holiday islands of the Seychelles are located in the Indian Ocean off Africaâs east coast. This archipelago nation contains no less than 155 islands.
As they are located close to the equator, the Seychelles enjoy a tropical climate with high temperatures year round: temperatures average between 25°C and 30°C across the year.
The seasons are dictated by the monsoons. The wet season is between November and April when the northwest monsoon winds bring heavy rain. The southeast monsoon winds prevail between May and October and bring the driest weather of the year, though it can be very windy at this time. January is on average the wettest month with some islands seeing 400mm. Almost half of the annual rainfall (around 2200mm) falls between December and February.