Climate and Weather in Africa
Africa is the third continent in the world by geographical extension. It is bordered to the north by the Mediterranean Sea, to the west by the Atlantic Ocean and to the east by the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean and Asia through the Suez Canal. Although it has a total area of 30,272,922 square kilometers (621,600 in island mass), which represents 22% of the total land area, the population is 910,844,133 residents, less than 16%. The continent is organized into 53 countries, all of them being members of the African Union, with the exception of Morocco. See list of countries in Africa.
Climate in North Africa
North Africa can be divided into several climate zones. As a rule, it gets warmer and drier from north to south and the temperature fluctuations also increase.
The Mediterranean coast has a subtropical climate. Warm, dry summers with average temperatures of 23-26 ° C alternate with mild, humid winters, in which an average of 10-18 degrees is reached. In this climatic zone, 500-1,000 mm of rain fall annually in the west. The amount of precipitation decreases significantly to the east: in Libya it is still 250-600 mm, in Egypt only 100-200 mm is measured.
The Canaries have a special variety of subtropical climate. Because of the cool ocean currents, the average annual temperatures are only 22-23 degrees. They only vary by six to seven degrees over the course of the year. There is little rainfall on the flat islands. On the other hand, the humid northeast trade wind rains down on islands with high mountains on their northern slopes and provides lush vegetation here.
The peaks of the particularly high mountains on Gran Canaria and Tenerife have an alpine climate with often closed snow cover in winter.
Winter humid continental climate
In the Atlas Mountains, which stretch from Morocco to Tunisia, there is a winter-humid continental climate with pronounced seasonal temperature fluctuations. While the average freezing point is hardly exceeded in January, the average temperature in August is 30 degrees. In winter, a closed blanket of snow often forms in the high elevations.
The dry season in summer is longer than on the coast. The amount of precipitation falls from 500-1,000 mm on the northern edge to 200-250 mm on the southern slopes. In the Egyptian Sinai Mountains Although similar temperature conditions prevail. But there is hardly any precipitation.
The largest climate zone in North Africa in terms of area is the desert climate in the Sahara, the largest desert on earth. The temperatures vary both between seasons and between day and night significantly. During the summer months, the mercury column can reach well over 50 degrees, but in winter it can also drop to -10 degrees in extreme cases. Temperatures can fluctuate up to 30 ° C over the course of a day. Fortunately, the low humidity makes the heat bearable.
With an average of 10-100 mm of precipitation per year, it is also extremely dry. In some areas there is often no rain for years. The sky over the Sahara is almost always cloudless and guarantees a lot of sunshine all year round. In summer, hot, dust-laden desert winds often blow here.
Best travel time for North Africa
To avoid the damp, cool and cloudy weather in winter, it is best to travel to the coastal regions and the Atlas Mountains between April and October. Then the weather is sunny and warm. During this time, the Mediterranean invites you to swim with temperatures well over 20 degrees.
The opposite is true for the Sahara. Because of the sweltering heat, the summer months are definitely to be avoided. Only the cooler months between October and April are possible. However, it can get quite cool at night in the desert in winter. The best months for the Sahara are therefore October / November and March / April.
A beach vacation on the Red Sea is possible all year round.
The Canary Islands also invite you to take a holiday at any time of the year, be it skiing, swimming or hiking.
West Africa climate
The countries of West Africa belong to three climate zones.
In the north, in the Sahara, there is a desert climate. To the south of it is the tropical, humid Sahel zone. The ever-humid tropics spread out in the south and south-west.
In the Sahara, the weather is dry and hot all year round. Here it is colder in winter and warmer in summer than in the more southern regions of West Africa. In addition, the Sahara shows greater temperature fluctuations during the year and during the day. Changes of 30 degrees within a day are completely normal.
In winter the temperatures are between 10 and 20 ° C, but can also drop to freezing point at night.
The summer is characterized by extreme heat. The thermometer rises to an average of 30-35 degrees. It is not uncommon for 40 degrees and above to be possible at the top.
In the desert, the annual precipitation is only 20 to 250 mm. It mostly falls between July and October. Considerable deviations up and down are possible every year.
Tropical and humid climate
The alternately humid Sahel zone includes the south of Mauritania, Mali and Niger, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Gambia as well as the north of most of the states on the Atlantic.
Rain is a precious commodity in the Sahel as well. Its residents have to wait six to nine months a year for precipitation. The length of the rainy season and the amount of rain increase from north to south. The rain falls in the northern mid-June to mid-September, in the south of May October bis. The amount increases from north to south from 200 to 1,000 mm.
Cool dry season
The first half of the drying time of November February bis is with average temperatures of 20 to 25 ° C relatively cool.
Hot dry season
When the hot, dry and dust-laden desert wind “Harmattan” sets in from the northeast, the very hot period begins. It lasts from March to May. Then more than 40 degrees can be reached during the day.
With the beginning of the rainy season, the harmattan is replaced by the humid southwest monsoon. Then it gets cooler again. From July onwards, temperatures are usually around 25 to 30 ° C on average.
Tropical always humid climate
The south and southwest of West Africa have a tropical, always humid climate. It is continuously under the influence of the southwest monsoons. With rainfall is therefore the need throughout the year about expected.
The wetter phases are in spring and autumn, and it is drier in summer and winter. The annual amount of rain in the tropical and always humid West Africa is enormous. It is between 1,000 and over 5,000 mm. The highest values will be measured in the rainforests of Liberia and Guinea. When it rains, it is often torrential. The humidity during the rainy season is extremely high at over 80%.
The temperature fluctuations in this zone are small. The maximum temperatures are between 28 and 35 degrees all year round and never fall below 20 degrees at night.
Best travel time for West Africa
The best time to travel to West Africa is between November and February during the comparatively cool and less humid dry season.
We do not recommend driving in the remaining months. During the rainy season there is high humidity and enormous amounts of precipitation. Many roads are hardly passable even with off-road vehicles because of the amount of rain. In the north and in the Sahel zone, the heat is unbearable in spring and summer.
Central Africa climate
From desert to desert. This is how the climate in Central Africa can be characterized. Because it stretches from the Sahara in the north to the foothills of the Namib and Kalahari in the south. In between there are zones with a tropical, alternately humid climate and an ever-humid equatorial climate.
Desert climate in the north
There is a desert climate north of Lake Chad. On the one hand, this includes extreme temperature differences. The thermometer can fluctuate by around 20 ° C between day and night. On the other hand, the Sahara has a very high average temperature. Even in the “coldest” month of January it is 32 degrees. The highest values are reached in May with 45-50 ° C.
Precipitation occurs only in very small amounts. You can only expect a maximum of 20-50 mm of rain. An exception are the mountains. Their mountains catch the clouds and provide up to 1,000 mm of precipitation per year.
Tropical and humid climate north of the equator
South of Lake Chad begins the tropical, alternately humid zone. It includes large parts of Cameroon, southern Chad, the Central African Republic and the northern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The annual precipitation collected at several hundred millimeters in Chad and take significantly to the south and west. Up to 11,000 mm of precipitation falls annually on the slopes of the Cameroon Mountain. This makes it one of the rainiest areas on earth.
The rainy season becomes longer and longer towards the south and lasts on average from April to October. There are warm temperatures between 22 and 32 ° C all year round.
Tropical always humid climate
It’s always humid and muggy right at the equator. Daily and seasonal temperature fluctuations are small at 3-4 degrees. The thermometer shows a constant 24-27 ° C, at higher altitudes 17-22 degrees.
The humidity is unbearably high 80-98 (!)%.
The amount of precipitation amounts to 1,000-4,000 mm annually. The maximum levels are measured between March and June and between September and December. But also in the other times rainfalls are something completely normal.
Tropical and humid climate south of the equator
In the south, there is another tropical, alternately humid zone. The rainy season falls from November to April. During this period, the country receives most of the annual rainfall of 600 to 1,500 mm. The further away you get from the equator, the shorter it becomes and the lower the rainfall.
The mean annual temperature fluctuates between 18 ° C in higher elevations and 25 ° C in the lowlands. The July is the coldest month, the October, the hottest. However, the differences are only a few degrees.
Desert climate in the south
Along the coast and in the southeast of Angola, the climate is becoming increasingly desert-like again. On the border with Namibia, the annual rainfall is only 50 mm. The mean annual temperature is between 23 and 26 degrees.
Best travel time for Central Africa
The best travel time for the deserts and the humid tropics north of the equator is between November and March. Then the temperatures are the lowest with an average of 25 degrees and there is rarely any precipitation.
In the always humid tropics, the drier months of January / February and July / August are best for a stay.
For the humid tropics and the deserts south of the equator, the cooler dry period between May and October is the best time to travel. Then it is dry and the temperatures are relatively bearable at 25 ° C.
Climate in southern Africa
The countries in southern Africa also have a share in different climatic zones. Both tropical and subtropical and desert regions can be detected. In the higher elevations of the Drakensberg there are also smaller zones with a moderate climate.
Since southern Africa is exactly on the other side of the earth, the highest temperatures are measured between December and February. When it’s summer here, on the other hand, it gets coolest.
tropical and humid climate
The humid tropics include Mozambique and the lower regions of Zimbabwe. The temperatures in this zone are warm all year round with an average of 22-30 degrees. There are two seasons: the humid, hot and humid period lasts from October / November to March / April. The remaining months are dry and a little cooler.
The subtropical regions in southern Africa include the higher areas of Zimbabwe and the east and south coasts of South Africa.
The average temperatures are in the austral winter at 15-20 ° C and in the southern summer at 26-28 ° C.
This climatic zone receives 600-1,400 mm of precipitation annually. From west to east it gets more and more humid. However, the rain is distributed quite differently over the course of the year.
On the east coast there are humid conditions almost all year round. The warm Agulhas Current in the Indian Ocean is responsible for this. The southeast trade wind absorbs a lot of moisture above it and transports it over the east coast.
In the high altitudes of Zimbabwe, the rain is concentrated in the months from October to March. Around Cape Town, the rainfall falls mainly from June to September.
The Drakensberg has a temperate climate of over 1,300 m. In the summer average values are reached 20 degrees. Snow falls regularly on the peaks in winter. At 2,000 mm, most of the precipitation in southern Africa comes from the sky.
Desert and semi-desert climate
To the west of the Drakensberg and north of Cape Town, the climate is becoming increasingly drier and, on average, warmer.
In the north-west of South Africa, Namibia and most of Botswana, only 20-250 mm of precipitation is measured, which falls in the hot season. Desert and semi-deserts with hot summers and cool winters therefore dominate the landscape.
The mean temperatures in summer in the Namib and Kalahari often reach values of more than 30 degrees. On the other hand, on cold winter nights there can be frost and snow fall.
Along the west coast, the cold Benguela Current from Antarctica leads to more even temperatures, but also to frequent coastal fog.
Best travel time for southern Africa
The most pleasant months to travel in many areas of southern Africa are April / May and August to October. Visitors can then expect mild temperatures of 25 degrees during the day, hardly any precipitation and lower humidity. The sun is almost always shining.
August to October is the best time for safaris anywhere. The animals are then easiest to observe.
The southern spring in October and November is ideal for the Cape region, when nature shows its most beautiful side with its blooming flower fields.
Deviating from these recommendations, the mild and rain-free months from June to August are particularly suitable for the subtropical east coast.
Outside of the tropical, humid regions and the South African east coast, the southern winter is too cold, especially at night, while the southern summer is everywhere too hot and often quite humid.
Climate in East Africa
The climate in East Africa is influenced on the one hand by its proximity to the equator. This ensures the plains for year-round constant temperatures that are an average of 25 to 30 degrees. Since large parts of East Africa are above 1,000 m, the high temperatures there are moderated by the altitude.
On the other hand, it is sometimes very dry in the region for the inner tropics.
A desert climate can be found in the lowlands of Eritrea, in Djibouti and Somalia as well as in the north of Kenya. With average temperatures of 35-36 ° C in summer, the deserts of East Africa are among the hottest regions in the world. Even at night the thermometer only drops to 29-30 degrees. In winter the mercury column still shows an average of 25-26 ° C.
It rarely rains in the desert regions. The annual rainfall of only 20-400 mm falls in Eritrea and Djibouti in the winter months, in Somalia from April to June.
Tropical and humid climate
In the other regions of East Africa, there is a tropical, alternately humid climate. There, the mean annual temperatures drop from 25-30 degrees on the Indian Ocean and around Lake Victoria gradually to eight degrees above 3,000 m. In the mountains, visitors have to reckon with frost and snowfall again and again.
The hottest time in the Ethiopian highlands is during the northern summer. The areas to the south are already under the influence of the seasons of the southern hemisphere. Therefore, December to February are the warmest there.
The amount of rain in the tropical, alternately humid zone increases with increasing altitude. If 500-1,500 mm of precipitation is measured in the flatlands and the plateaus, it is up to 1,800 mm in the high mountains of Ethiopia and even 3,000 mm in the Ruwenzori Mountains.
The precipitation falls during two rainy seasons.
The major rainy season in Ethiopia lasts from June to September, while the minor rainy season includes the months of February and March.
In the southern countries, the great rainy season lasts from March to May, while the short rainy season occurs in November / December.
In the south and southwest of Tanzania there is only one rainy season from November / December to April. During the remaining months it is mostly dry.
Year-round intensive precipitation, as one might actually expect directly at the equator, is missing in East Africa. The humidity in the highlands is mostly bearable, while the coasts of Lake Victoria and the Indian Ocean get muggy in the rainy seasons.
Best travel time for East Africa
For a visit to the desert areas, only the months of November / December to March are possible. Then the high temperatures cool down a bit, also thanks to the occasional rainfall. The summer months, however, are absolutely unsuitable. At this time it is unbearably hot with temperatures of more than 45 degrees (in the shade!) During the day.
Because of the dry weather and milder values is also important for the Equator north seasonally dry regions of the winter recommended.
South of the equator you can expect the most pleasant temperatures, the most sun and the least chance of rain from June to September / October. Therefore, these months are preferable for a stay there.
Trekking tours in the mountains should only be undertaken at the end of this phase, as it is still too cold beforehand.
In December / January there is no rain either, but it gets considerably hotter. Then the best option is a beach holiday on the Indian Ocean.
Climate on the islands in the Indian Ocean
The islands in the Indian Ocean have a warm, humid tropical climate due to their location around the equator. The daytime temperatures on the coasts are constant all year round between 24 and 30 ° C and hardly fluctuate. Even at night, the thermometer rarely drops below 20 degrees.
An exception are the high altitude. It gets really cold there in June and July. In Madagascar and Réunion, the thermometer over 2,000 m can even go back to freezing point at night.
The water temperatures are far from these low values. Bathing pleasure is guaranteed at 22 to 29 ° C all year round.
As is to be expected for islands in the tropics, there is a lot of rain. 1,000-8,000 mm annually is completely normal. On the islands that have higher mountains, the east sides usually get significantly more rainfall and wind than the west sides. The humid air masses first hit the eastern slopes on their way across the Indian Ocean and rain down there. For the west side there is only relatively little moisture left.
In Madagascar this goes so far that there in the southwest even only 350-750 mm fall annually and a semi-desert has partially formed. If you are not exactly a surfer and are looking for the wind, you should preferably book hotels on the drier, sunnier and less windy west sides.
There are two seasons of the year on the islands in the Indian Ocean: the rainy season and the dry season.
Most of the islands off the east coast of Africa have a dry season between May and October. But that does not mean that there will be no rain at all. Rather, it is just less humid and a little cooler than during the rainy season, when the monsoons bring in humid air masses.
In addition to a lot of precipitation, the rainy season also has a high humidity of 75-85% and the risk of tropical cyclones. In addition, it is relatively cloudy and usually a few degrees warmer than in the dry months. The rain usually comes in the late afternoon, evening or night in the form of short but violent showers and thunderstorms.
Best travel time for the islands in the Indian Ocean
Since the temperatures on the islands in the Indian Ocean are warm throughout the year in midsummer, precipitation plays a decisive role in choosing the best travel time. We always recommend staying in the dry season. Then there is significantly less precipitation and the sun often shines down from a bright blue sky all day. It is also usually a few degrees cooler.
This means that the months of May to October are recommended for the islands off the east coast of Africa.
Since this part of the world is also the high tourist season during our summer months, those who have to keep an eye on the money should preferably go in May / June or September / October.
Vacationers are not advised to go through the rainy season. In addition to frequent tropical downpours, visitors are also confronted with high humidity and the risk of cyclones. In addition, there are slightly higher temperatures during the day, often over 30 degrees.
Also see Abbreviation Finder for a list of abbreviations and acronyms of all countries in the continent of Africa.