Iraq: Weather Overview
Surrounded by countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, Turkey, Syria and Jordan; approximately 97 per cent of Iraq is landlocked. The typical Iraqi climate is comparable to that of the extreme weather forecasts of the southwestern United States region with cold winters, hot and dry summers and enjoyable spring and autumn seasons.
Iraqâs main geographical features are made up of desert; situated in the west and southwest regions, alluvial plain extending from northern Baghdad to the Persian Gulf, the highlands in the north and northeast and the upper Mesopotamia, also known as the rolling upland between upper Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Each of these characteristics has its own uniqueness that helps build the overall climate of Iraq.
Approximately 90 per cent of the areas annual precipitation is obtained from November through until April with most of it occurring throughout the winter months from December until March. The remainder of the year is very hot and very dry, particularly throughout June to August when the average temperature reaches 32°C. The Persian Gulf has very minimal influence on the overall climate of Iraq, while locations near the Gulf receive higher humidity than any other part of the country.
With the arrangement of the lack of precipitation and extreme heat variances, Iraq is made up, much like a desert. Evaporation rates are also very high therefore soil and plants are very likely to lose the little moisture that was firstly obtained from the rain. Vegetation and most plant life are very minimal throughout the country as it cannot survive without widespread rainfall. However, although arid, some regions throughout Iraq do tend to grow natural flora and fauna in comparison to the desert. For example in the Zagros Mountainous region in northeastern Iraq, permanent vegetation is always present, such as oak trees and date palms which are typically found in the south.
With exception to the north and northeastern regions, the average annual rainfall varies from 100mm to 170mm every year. Records show that average annual precipitation ranges from 320mm to 570mm in the northern highland areas. Obviously rain falls more frequently in the mountainous region and in some places, on occasions can reach more than 1000mm per year, however, the surrounding environment prevents widespread agriculture. Agriculture on non-irrigated lands is very restricted, particularly on the mountain valleys, steeps and foothills which obtain only 300mm of rainfall per year.
Average low climates in the winter months vary from a near freezing point; normally just before sunrise throughout the northern and north-eastern foothills and the west of the desert to around 2°C or 3°C and 4°C to 5°C in the alluvial plateau area in the south of Iraq. They do however rise to average highs of approximately 16°C in the west and northeast of the desert and to 17°C in the south. In the summertime average low climates range from 22°C to 29°C and will commonly rise to highs of 38°C and 44°C. Temperatures throughout the country will typically fall below freezing point and have in previous yearâs fallen to as low as -14.5°C at Ar Rutbah in the western desert area. However, temperatures are more likely to rise above 46°C in the summer months and high temperatures in the past have reached over 48°C.
The summertime is commonly marked by two types of wind phenomenaâs; the southern and southeasterly sharqi. These dry, dusty winds take place from April to early June and again from late September through until November can occasionally blow up to eighty kilometres per hour. These phases can last for a whole day at the commencement and end of the seasons, however, can last for up to several days at all other times. Harsh dust storms are usually accompanied by these winds that have been known to reach several thousand meters in height that force to close down airports for short periods of time. From the middle of June through until mid-September a prevailing wind named âthe shamalâ is present throughout the country from the north and northwest. The extremely dry air that is brought by the shamal consents extensive heating of the land's surface, the breeze, however, has a soothing cooling effect.
Throughout the western and southern desert regions, the typical weather is known by its hot summer days and cool to mild winters. This area also obtains harsh but brisk rainstorms throughout the winter months that bring around 100mm of water into the region. The majority of nights are clear in the summer and around a third of the winter nights are cloudy.
Tigris and Euphrates River situated in the alluvial plain in the southeast receive the majority of the countryâs yearly precipitation which is commonly accompanied by thunderstorms in the winter months and early spring. The mean precipitation obtained throughout the region annually is approximately 100mm to 170mm. More than half of the day in the winter is covered by clouds and in the summertime the skies and clear and sunny for most of the time.
The mountains in the north and northeast regions see climates that known for their typical warm summer days and cold winter months. Most of the region's rainfall is obtained in winter and spring, with very sparse precipitation in the summer. In regions above 1500m, heavy snow falls during the winter, and thunder and lightning storms are common throughout the summer. Average rainfall for the whole area ranges from 400mm to 1000mm per year.
Throughout the foothill regions, there is practically no precipitation in the summer months and short brief showers in the winter. The winter rainfall will commonly average around 380mm. Night time is normally clear in the summer months and the winter will normally see thick clouds.