Climate is the primary factor in much of Somali life. For the large nomadic population, the timing and amount of rainfall are crucial determinants of the adequacy of grazing and the prospects of relative prosperity. During droughts such as in 1974-75 and 1984-85, starvation can occur.
Somalis recognize four seasons, two rainy (gu
) and two dry (jiilaal
rains begin in April and last until June, producing a fresh supply of pasture and turning the desert into a flowering garden for a brief period. Lush vegetation covers most of the land, especially the central grazing plateau, where grass grows tall. The gu
season is followed by the drought (July-September) and the hagaa
by the day
rains (October-November). Next is jiilaal
(December-March), the harshest season for pastoralists and their herds.
Most of the country receives less than 500 millimeters of rain annually, and a large area encompassing the northeast and much of northern Somalia gets as little as 50 to 150 millimeters. However, certain higher areas in the north record more than 500 millimeters a year, as do some coastal sites. The southwest receives 330 to 500 millimeters. Generally, rainfall takes the form of showers or localized torrential rains and is highly variable.
Mean daily maximum temperatures throughout the country range from 30° C to 40° C, except at higher elevations and along the Indian Ocean coast. Mean daily minimum temperatures vary from 20° C to more than 30° C. Northern Somalia experiences the most significant temperature extremes, ranging from below-freezing in the highlands in December to more than 45° C in July in the coastal plain skirting the Gulf of Aden. The north's relative humidity ranges from about 40 percent in midafternoon to 85 percent at night, varying somewhat with the season. During the colder months, December to February, fog often restricts visibility at higher elevations.
Temperatures in the south are less extreme, ranging from about 20° C to 40° C. The hottest months are February through April. Coastal readings are usually five to ten degrees cooler than those inland. The coastal zone's relative humidity usually remains about 70 percent, even during the dry seasons.
mostly flat to undulating plateau rising to hills in north
uranium and largely unexploited reserves of iron ore, tin, gypsum, bauxite, copper, salt, natural gas, likely oil reserves
recurring droughts; frequent dust storms over eastern plains in summer; floods during rainy season
772 Square Miles
2,000 Square Kilometers
famine; use of contaminated water contributes to human health problems; deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification
Environment - International Agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Desertification, Endangered Species, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection signed but not ratified: none of the selected agreements