Weather & Climate

Its location in the southern hemisphere means that South Africa means experiences the reverse of the seasons from the northern hemisphere.

South African temperatures are governed by three main features.
(a) Because of South Africa’s greater height above sea level, temperatures tend to be lower here than in other regions in the world in similar latitudes, for example Australia.

(b) Despite a latitudinal span of 13 degrees, average annual temperatures are remarkably uniform throughout the country, mainly due to the increase in the height of the plateau towards the north-east.

(c) The striking contrast between temperatures on the east and west coasts, as caused by the difference between the temperatures of the Mozambique-Agulhas and Benguela currents.

Over 40 % of the country area lies above 1,210 m above sea level, influencing the temperatures and rainfall in the land’s interior significantly.

South Africa’s climate is sunny and temperate, creating ideal conditions for outdoor activities. The average number of sunshine hours per day is among the highest in the world. Temperatures above 32º C are fairly common in summer and in some areas frequently exceed 38º C. Although these temperatures are normally comfortable, visitors are adviced to apply sunscreen products when exposed to the South African sun.

The dry conditions and abundant sunshine are caused by South Africa’s location in the subtropical belt of high pressure. Fortunately, the wide expanses of ocean on three sides of South Africa have a moderating influence on the climate. Where the land meets the sea, galeforce winds frequently blow, especially in the south-western and southern coastal areas. The rest of the country, however, does not suffer from these winds.

Winter temperatures are generally mild and clear and periodic snowfalls only occur in the higher mountain ranges of the Eastern and Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

South Africa has an average annual rainfall of only 464 mm, against the world average of 857 mm. In total, 65 per cent of the country has an annual rainfall of less than 500 mm which is usually regarded as the absolute minimum for successful dry-land farming. This potential problem has largely been countered by the construction of excellent irrigation systems.

Frost often occurs on the interior plateau during cold, clear winter nights, with ice forming on still pools and in water pipes. The incidence of frost decreases to the north of the country, while the coast is virtually frost-free. Snow is a rare occurrence except on some mountaintops, for example in the Drakensberg mountain range.

Western Cape province that experiences a Mediterranean climate (dry summers and winter rainfall) while the rest of the country gets its rain in summer.

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