What is the terrain and geography like in Somalia?
Somalis recognize four seasons, two rainy (gu and
day) and two dry (jiilaal and hagaa). The
gu rains begin in April and last until June, producing a
fresh supply of pasture and for a brief period turning the desert
into a flowering garden. Lush vegetation covers most of the land,
especially the central grazing plateau where grass grows tall.
Milk and meat abound, water is plentiful, and animals do not
require much care. The clans, reprieved from four months'
drought, assemble to engage alternately in banter and poetic
exchange or in a new cycle of hereditary feuds. They also offer
sacrifices to Allah and to the founding clan ancestors, whose
blessings they seek. Numerous social functions occur: marriages
are contracted, outstanding disputes are settled or exacerbated,
and a person's age is calculated in terms of the number of
gus he or she has lived. The gu season is followed
by the hagaa 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 receives as little as 50 to 150
millimeters. Certain higher areas in the north, however, 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
Mean daily maximum temperatures throughout the country range
from 30° C to 40° C, except at higher elevations and along
Indian Ocean coast. Mean daily minimum temperatures vary from
20° C to more than 30° C. Northern Somalia experiences the
temperature extremes, with readings 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, visibility at higher
elevations is often restricted by fog.
Temperatures in the south are less extreme, ranging from
about 20° C to 40° C. The hottest months are February
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.