Gambia: Weather Overview
The Gambia has a sub-tropical climate with a wet season from June till October and a dry season from November till May. It is considered to have the most pleasant climate in all of Africa. It is the smallest country in Africa, protruding from the western North Atlantic coast, 740 km into Senegal around Gambia River. The strip of land is almost entirely flooded plain and is less than 50 km wide. As a result, the country is almost entirely flat and very low, which itself results in little regional climatic variation. However, the short coastal area does receive much milder conditions than the countryâs interior which sees higher temperatures and a prolonged wet season.
The dry season, from November till May, starts with the very tail end of the rains. An infinitesimal amount of rain falls in short showers before the beginning of the dry season proper which is as dry as the driest of dry bones. This means that the reliably high temperatures are not made worse by humidity and the sun is almost always out. However, sometimes winds blow over from the Sahara creating hazy conditions, and a wind from the north can cause fog by the shore. In Banjul, the capital city, the average high temperature hovers around 32°C at the very beginning of the season, and then slips down to 31°C as the last of the countryâs humidity is squeezed out by the relentless sun. The difference between night and day temperatures increases as the country dries out. At the beginning of November, nighttime temperatures see average lows 10°C below daytime highs. By the end of December, the difference has increased to about 15°C with nighttime lows around 17°C. In January the average low drops to 15°C. In February temperatures start to increase again with a mini-peak in March at 34°C, after which it cools back down to 32°C. March and April are historically the driest and sunniest months in the year, expecting to see absolutely no rain at all. The end of May sees the very beginning of the rains. On coastal areas, these relentlessly high daytime temperatures are tempered slightly by northeast trade winds, while further inland they can soar unchecked into the 40s and get much colder at night. Moderate rainfall all over the country and Gambia River ensure that the Gambia is very green for an African country but away from the coast and the river it mostly consists of scrubland and Savannah, and in the dry season these parts can become very arid.
Transition periods between seasons are the best times to visit the Gambia as the high temperatures are complemented by cool nights without dropping too low. Rainfall is low and the sun, as always, can be relied upon. These are also the best times for discovering the flora and fauna of Gambia as in the spring the increased rainfall brings the area to life, and at the end of the rainy period, in autumn, the country is thriving with the benefits of prolonged rainfall.
The wet season, from June till December, sees rainfall steadily increasing to a definite peak in August, which sees around 500 mm of rain. While daytime averages remain at the usual 31°C to 32°C, Gambia is definitely hotter during this period the nighttime temperatures begin to stay up in the mid-20s. Afternoon breezes help to alleviate the heat in coastal areas, but elsewhere with such high humidity, it becomes unbearable. Rainfall is highest from June till September and falls in unpredictable downpours that can cause flash flooding, mudslides and landslides. The sun still comes out every day in between these storms. Having been starved for so long, Gambiaâs plant life bursts into life as soon as the rains start to fall.
Gambiaâs climate can be attributed to its situation and topography. The Gambia sits at tropical latitudes, and its low elevation suggests that it should receive the full amount of rainfall expected for a tropical region. However, despite having a relatively pleasant climate for Africa, it is still arid in comparison to other areas at similar latitudes, for instance, the tropical islands of Barbados and St Lucia. Its comparative aridity can be put down to its consistently flat topography. Without any areas of high relief, humid weather systems pass easily over the area without forming precipitation. Luckily, hillier areas surrounding Gambia force rain to fall which then drains into Gambia River. Despite the dry season, the river allows for an almost uninterrupted abundance of life. It does run lower, and some tributaries dry out, but it generally serves animals and human settlements well. The Gambia is renowned for its diverse wildlife, especially for its endless varieties of bird. Gambia River has a saltwater delta and during the dry season, due to the slowness of the riverbed, sea water intrudes as far as 250 km up the river.