Jordan: Weather Overview
Jordan receives an arid desert climate. Summers are long, unbearably hot and unbelievable dry. During the brief winters temperatures are cooler and rainfall increases; but to what extent varies dramatically depending on location. Jordan is almost entirely landlocked and is mainly plateau with a few mountains and valleys. Its most notable topographical feature is the Rift Valley that stretches along the west side of the country. Large differences in elevation and proximity to water had lead to great regional climatic variation. While arid conditions prevail across the country, rainfall decreases from west to east and seasonal variation in temperature becomes more extreme.
Summer, from May till October, is baking hot across the country. Temperatures range from the high 20s in Jericho to the low 30s in Amman, to the low 40s in Aqaba and beyond in remote areas of the eastern desert. The season is almost entirely dry, rain falling only very rarely in short storms in the northwest. Night time temperatures are usually much cooler due to the aridity, but cooler can sometimes still mean the low 20s and this can be very uncomfortable. Luckily, low humidity means the effect of the heat is lessened. From June till September Jordan is sometimes subject to a mass of dry incredibly dry air blowing in from the north. This is called the âshammalâ and its extreme aridity can force day time temperatures even higher.
Winter, from November till April, sees temperatures decreasing but to a much greater extent in north-eastern regions. Regions within the valley remain warm with day time highs in Aqaba at 21°C and night time lows just below 10°C; frosts are very rare and snow is unheard of. East of the rift average highs can fall below 10°C and at night it can get well below freezing, frosts are widespread and prolonged, and if precipitation forms it falls as snow. Even in Amman, in the hilly region right next to the rift, snow falls in winter. This ârainy seasonâ sees almost all of the regionâs annual rainfall with humid air being blown over from the Mediterranean. Heavy storms are likely in the west while in the east still, very little rain falls if any. The beginning of the season is often subject to âkhamsinâ another hot dry wind that blows over from Arabia, forcing day time temperatures up by as much as 15°C. Wherever you go in Jordan, winter visits require warm clothing as even if the days are warm, the night times are cold.
The Rift Valley is the lowest-lying land on earth, getting down to 400 metres below sea level in places. It stretches from Lake Tiberius in Israel to the Gulf of Aqaba alongside Jordanâs border with Israel. Although it is in the west of the country, near to the Mediterranean Sea, the valley receives low levels of precipitation due to its steep sides that climb to 1000 metres. Humid air is trapped by these ridges, forcing rain to fall on them and not in the valley. The northern part of the valley receives the highest rainfall, up to 300 mm per year in the very north, and rain trickles down the mountainsides forming tributaries which become the River Jordan. This region is called the Jordan Valley. In the south rainfall, levels are below 100 mm, and rain only falls in the wet season. The variation in rainfall from north to south is such that the north is green while the south is barren, and insulation decreases to the north seeing greater extremes of temperature, both from night to day and seasonally. The highlands surrounding the Jordan Valley are the most fertile area of Jordan, supporting the largest communities. Rainfall levels range from 300 mm to 600 mm from east to west and temperatures are generally higher than in the valley.
The plains to the east of the Rift Valley are flat, dry and windswept. The plateau is about 250 m lower than the highlands. The area receives less than 300 mm of rain annually and is cooler than the highlands. Nights and winters are bitterly cold. To the east of this region lies the Badia, a desert area that covers about eighty per cent of Jordan. This flat, lifeless desert sees huge seasonal differences in temperature due to insolation caused by the lack of rain. Rainfall levels around 200 mm are experienced in the west and 50 mm in the east on a good year.
In this country of extremes, manâs reliance on water is starkly clear. Civilisation hugs the river banks, the Dead Sea, Jordanâs only coast on the Gulf of Aqaba, and the wetter highlands to the east of the Rift. Water not only allows for agriculture but has moderating effects on the temperature so the greater extremes seen in desert areas are avoided. The barren desert is uninhabitable and as such infrastructure is minimal. Excursions into the desert, or Wadi Rum, are recommended as the landscape makes a stunning contrast to our usual experience and holds an alien beauty.