Weather in Kenya: Kenya displays great contrasts in topography and climate: snowcapped peaks give way to deserts, palm-fringed beaches to rolling savannah plains, alpine highlands to the lunar Semi deserts of the northeast. Since the country lies on the equator, the climate remains stable all year. The days are sunny and hot, but the nights can be cool. Broadly speaking, January to February is dry; March to May is wet (“long rains”); June to September is dry; October to December is wet (“short rains”). The coast is always hot with an average daytime temperature of 81—88°P (27—31°C). The average daytime temperature in Nairobi is 70—79°F (21—26°C), while the temperatures elsewhere depend on altitude. The period July to August marks the Kenyan winter.
Weather in Kenya
Kenya’s diverse geography means that temperature, rainfall and humidity vary widely, but there are effectively four distinct zones.
Weather in Kenya – Western Kenya
The hot, rainy plateau of western Kenya has rainfall throughout the year, the heaviest usually during April, when as much as 200mm may be recorded, and the lowest in January, with an average of 40mm. Temperatures range from a minimum of 14°C to 18°C to a maximum of 30°C to 36°C throughout the year.
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Weather in Kenya – Rift Valley and Central Highlands
The temperate Rift Valley and Central Highlands have perhaps the most agreeable climate in the country. Average temperatures vary from a minimum of 10°C to 14°C to a maximum of 22°C to 28°C. Rainfall varies from a minimum of 20mm in July to 200mm in April, falling in essentially two seasons – March to the beginning of June (the ‘long rains’) and October to the end of November (the ‘short rains’). Mt Kenya and the Aberdare Range are the country’s main water catchments, with falls of up to 3000mm per year recorded in these places.
Weather in Kenya – Semiarid areas
In the semiarid bushlands of northern and eastern Kenya temperatures vary from highs of up to 40°C during the day to less than 20°C at night. Rainfall in this area is sparse and, when it does occur, is often in the form of violent storms. July is usually the driest month, and November the wettest. The average annual rainfall varies between 250mm and 500mm.
Weather in Kenya – Coast region
The consistently humid coast region has rainfall averages from 20mm in February to around 300mm in May. Rainfall is dependent on the monsoon, which blows from the northeast from October to April and from the southwest for the rest of the year. The average annual rainfall is between 1000mm and 1250mm (less in drought years). Average temperatures vary little during the year, ranging from 22°C to 30°C.
Although Nairobi is situated in the middle of East Africa, its high altitude—about a mile above sea level—means that the city’s climate is mild year-round. Visitors are spared the extreme, blistering temperatures found in other regions of Africa, or even other areas within Kenya. Summer months in Nairobi are December through March, when average highs are in the upper 70s and lows are in the mid- to upper-50s. Winter months (June through September) are a little cooler. Average highs are in the lower 70s, and lows are in the lower 50s.
Weather in Nairobi Kenya – Rainy Seasons
There are two distinct rainy seasons that occur in Nairobi, one in the spring months of March to May, which is locally referred to as the ‘long rainy’ season. April is the wettest month during this period brining upwards of eight inches of rain on average. The other rainy period occurs between mid-October to mid-December, the period referred to locally as the ‘short’ rainy season. November sees approximately five inches of rain. During the rest of the year, around two inches a month can be expected.
February sees the most sunshine in Nairobi, with about ten hours of daylight. Half a year later, in August, sunshine lasts for about five or six hours.
Weather Forecast in Kenya
For the latest local weather forecasts online, visit the Kenya Meteorological office (www.meteo.go.ke).
Climate and Climate Change in Kenya
Kenya’s flora is diverse: along the coasts are forests containing palm, mangrove, teak, copal, and sandalwood trees. Forests of baobab, euphorbia, and acacia trees cover the lowlands to a height of around 3,000 ft (915 m) above sea level. Extensive tracts of savannah grassland, interspersed with groves of acacia and papyrus, characterize the terrain at heights from 3,000 to 9,000 ft (915 to 2,745 m).
The principal species in the dense rain forest of the eastern and southeastern mountain slopes are camphor and bamboo. The alpine zone, above 11,600 ft (3,550 m), contains large plants of the Senecio and Lobelia genera. Despite the tremendous losses inflicted by hunting and poaching during the twentieth century, Kenya teems with wildlife.
There are eighty major animal species, ranging from the “Big Five” (elephant, buffalo, rhinoceros, lion, and leopard) * down to tiny antelopes such as the dik-dik, which is slightly larger than a rabbit. At least thirty-two endemic species are endangered. An ornithologist’s paradise, Kenya is the finest country in Africa for bird-watching, boasting 1,137 species of birds and sixty IBAs (Important Bird Areas). It is common to spot more than one hundred bird species in a day. Kenya’s wildlife conservation area is 17,000 sq. miles (44,400 sq. km) or 7.6 percent of its total area For national parks and reserves, see pages 118-21.
Climate Change in Kenya
Deforestation is a major problem. With one of the highest population growth rates in the world, Kenya requires ever-increasing amounts of agricultural land for crops and firewood for fuel. However, some 10 million trees have, been planted over the past two decades with the help of private groups and tree nursery programs. There is soil erosion and desertification in some areas. Significant water pollution has followed the increased use of pesticides and fertilizers, and contamination of supplies means that only about 30 percent of the rural population has access to safe drinking water.
Weather in Kenya – When to Visit Kenya
The main tourist season is in January and February, when the weather is hottest and driest. At this time, the animals in the wildlife parks tend to congregate more around the watercourses, making them easier to spot. However, the parks can get crowded and rates for accommodation soar – also make sure you avoid Christmas and Easter unless you want to pay much higher prices.
From June to October, the annual wildebeest migration takes place, with thousands of animals streaming into the Masai Mara National Reserve from the Serengeti.
During the long rains (the low season, spanning from March to the end of May) things are much quieter. Wildlife is harder to spot and mosquitoes are rife, a combination that keeps most tourists away.