The Climates Of Africa

The climate is not uniform, but rather varies by locale. From this, it follows that the continents have a multiplicity of climates. Africa, the cradle of humanity, has a Mediterranean climate in its coastland along the Mediterranean Sea. The sea imparts its heat to North Africa. But, the sea breeze does not penetrate far into Africa, making only a thin strip of coastline Mediterranean in climate. The sea absorbs heat in summer and retains this heat into autumn, radiating it to Mediterranean Africa and making it hotter in summer and autumn than in spring and winter.

The coast of Algeria and Tunisia records temperatures above 80 degrees F (26 degrees C) in August, and around 50 degrees F (10 degrees C) in January. January in North Africa is warmer than January in many other regions of the world. The Atlantic coast of Morocco is cooler, with July temperatures recorded below 70 degrees F (21 degrees C). The Canaries Current, which bathes the Atlantic coast of North Africa, is cooler than the Mediterranean Sea, and accounts for the lower temperatures along the west coast of Morocco.

Most of North Africa has temperatures above 70 degrees F (21 degrees C) during at least nine months of the year. Between May and September, the air is clear, sunshine is abundant, and rainfall is scant. Temperatures rise going east along the Mediterranean coast. Mediterranean Libya and Egypt record summer temperatures as high as 105 degrees F (41 degrees C). In the interior of Egypt, away from the moderating effect of the sea, temperatures rise still higher. Merowe, Egypt has recorded 111 degrees F (44 degrees C) in June, and Wadi Halfa, 127 degrees F (53 degrees C) in April.

In Mediterranean Africa, rain falls in winter rather than in summer. October marks the onset of the winter rains. The coast of Algeria and Tunisia average more than 20 in. (51 cm.) of rain per year. Geryville, Algeria averages a bit less, between 10-20 in. (25-51 cm.) of rain per year. Tripoli, Libya receives 16 in. (41 cm.) of rain per year, Alexandria, Egypt 7 in. (18 cm.), but Cairo only 1 in. (2.5 cm.). Inland and away from the influence of the sea, Cairo and its surrounding lands resemble the Sahara more than the Mediterranean. Winters are mild in Mediterranean Africa. Libya and Egypt average 57 degrees F (14 degrees C) in January, although Algeria has recorded temperatures below freezing.

South of Mediterranean Africa is the Sahara desert, an arid region that receives less than 2 in. (5 cm.) of rain per year. Rainfall is variable. Some years, the Sahara receives no rain, whereas in other years it has between 2-5 in. (5-13 cm.). Temperatures are torrid, sometimes exceeding 170 degrees F (77 degrees C). Between May and September, temperatures regularly surpass 110 degrees F (43 degrees C). Yet January is mild, with record temperatures around 50 degrees F (10 degrees C) on the northern fringe of the desert, and 70 degrees F (21 degrees C) on the southern fringe.

West of the Sahara lie the countries of West Africa. The climate is moderate along the Atlantic coast, but varies inland. West Africa has extremes of temperature. In April and May, temperatures exceed 100 degrees F (38 degrees C), though August has recorded temperatures as low as 71 degrees F (22 degrees C). At the wettest locales, rainfall exceeds 175 in. (444 cm.) of rain per year. The rainy season stretches from April to November and peaks in June. Less rain falls between December and March, though no part of West Africa has a period without rain. The volume of rain diminishes moving east to Niger and Nigeria. Niger averages 40 in. (102 cm.) of rain a year, and Nigeria 60 in. (152 cm.). Most rain falls between June and September. Temperatures peak between April and June, exceeding 90 degrees F(32 degrees C) in Niger and Nigeria. Temperatures cool to 70 degrees F (31 degrees C)between December and February.

South of Egypt lies Sudan, an arid region and further south are Ethiopia and Somalia, both of them wetter than Sudan. Somalia receives between 10-20 in. (25-51 cm.) of rain per year; the upper bound holds for north ern Ethiopia, though the southwest has more than 75 in. (190 cm.) of rain a year. Rainfall peaks in February and March and, again, between June and September. The Indian Ocean cools Somalia, whose temperature hovers around 60 degrees F (16 degrees C) in January and 75 degrees F (24 degrees C) in July. The heights of Ethiopia are, likewise, cool. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia has recorded 60 degrees F (16 degrees C) in April. In winter, temperatures fall to freezing.

Cameroon is one of the wettest countries in Africa. In one year, Debundja recorded 374 in. (950 cm.) of rain. The heaviest rains fall between July and September. Year-round, the air is hot and humid. To the east lie Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Their location on the equator holds the temperature nearly constant. The mean is 78 degrees F (25 degrees C), with a variance of only 3 degrees. March and April are the hottest months and July and August the coolest. As is true of other equatorial regions, rainfall is heavy, totaling 100 in. (254 cm.) per year. These countries have two rainy seasons, one between March and June, and the other between September and November.

East of the Democratic Republic of Congo lie Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, whose hottest months, January and February, are dry. Daytime heat gives way to nighttime temperatures as cool as 55 degrees F (13 degrees C). Rains fall between March and May, with northern Kenya subsisting on less than than 10 in. (25 cm.) per year. The highlands of Kenya and the whole of Uganda get40-50 in. (102-127 cm.) of rain per year. South of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Indian Ocean moderates the climate. Whereas temperatures in January hover in the 80s degrees F (high 50s degrees C), they fall in July into the 50s and 60s degrees F (10-15 degrees C). In contrast to Mediterranean Africa, spring is warmer than autumn in southern Africa. Most of this region receives less than 25 in. (64 cm.) of rain per year, with the most arid lands getting only 5 in (13 cm.). Despite the dearth of rain in these lands, other regions, visited by clouds from the Indian Ocean, receive 100 in. (254 cm.) of rain per year.

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