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Climate - Namibia

Temperature, rainfall, prevailing weather conditions, when to go, what to pack

See also the US version (°F - inches - feet)

Flag - Namibia

Map - Namibia

Namibia, the former South-West Africa, has a sub-tropical climate, desert along the coast and in the south, and arid with a rainy season from November to March in the north-central and north-eastern inland areas.
The country is crossed by the Tropic of Capricorn, but along the coast a cold current flows, called Benguela Current, while the interior is occupied by a plateau. It follows that the climate is cooler and drier than you might think. Nevertheless, in summer it can get very hot, especially at some distance from the sea and in areas located at not-too-high altitudes. There may be blistering days from September to March in the north, from November to January in Windhoek, which is located at a pretty high altitude, and from September to May in the centre-south. On the contrary, during winter, the plateau can get cold at night, with possible light frosts at night.
The country is home to nature reserves and parks of great beauty, like the Etosha National Park.
Being in the Southern Hemisphere, its seasons are reversed from Europe or North America.

The driest region is the coastal area, where the Namib Desert is located, as well as the south, where there is the Kalahari Desert, which is slightly rainier, so that it's home to xerophyte plants like cacti and other succulent species. The rainiest area of Namibia is the north-east, where rainfall ranges from 500 to 600 millimetres per year. Winter is dry everywhere, while in non-desert regions (north and east) it rains in summer, from November to March, usually in the form of showers or thunderstorms in the afternoon. The peak of the rainy season is from January to March.

Along the coast, the climate is desert but mild: it almost never rains but the air is humid and there are often fogs, mists and low clouds, especially in the early hours of the day. The temperatures are spring-like all year round: the maximum ranging from 15/17 °C in winter to 20/22 °C in summer.
Here are the average temperatures of Swakopmund, in the central part of the coast.
Swakopmund average temperatures
Swakopmund J F M A M J J A S O N D
Min (°C) 15 16 15 13 11 11 9 9 10 11 13 14
Max (°C) 20 21 20 18 18 20 18 16 16 16 18 19

The sea temperature is very cool, if not cold, all year round, however, it reaches 17 °C from January to March. Only in the northernmost part of the Skeleton Coast, the sea becomes a bit warmer, so that it reaches 22/23 °C in March.
Sea temperature Swakopmund
Swakopmund J F M A M J J A S O N D
Sea (°C) 17 17 17 16 15 14 14 14 14 14 15 16

As you can see from the average rainfall, in Swakopmund it hardly ever rains.
Average precipitation Swakopmund
Swakopmund J F M A M J J A S O N D Year
Prec. (mm) 1 2 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 8
Days 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1

Along the coast, the temperature can suddenly increase, when the wind called Oosweer, which can also cause sandstorms, blows from inland. In addition, it's sufficient to move inland for not too many kilometres, to note the shrinking of the influence of the sea, so that the air temperature will increase rapidly, at least during the day and in summer. To understand how strong is the cooling influence of the sea, we can recall that in summer the temperatures in inland areas are higher than on the coast, even at altitudes above 1,500 metres. The coast is not recommended for beach tourism, but rather for watching birds, or animals such as sea lions at Cape Cross, and also the remains of shipwrecks of past centuries in the Skeleton Coast to the north. In the area of Sossusvlei in the west, there are huge orange sand dunes, probably the highest sand dunes in the world.

Sand Dunes in Sossusvlei

The inland areas are occupied by a plateau, whose altitude ranges from 1,200 to 1,700 metres. Occasionally, there are higher chains, and peaks exceeding 2,000 metres. In the southern regions (Hardap and Karas), in the warmer months (December and January), the maximum temperatures are around 35 °C at 1,000 metres of altitude. In the north, where the rainy season is more pronounced, in the warmer months the temperatures are a bit lower, with highs around 30 °C. North of the Tropic, the warmest period is from September to November, before the rainy season. For example in Tsumeb, the hottest month is October, when daytime temperatures are slightly higher than in January: 33 °C instead of 31 °C, while in Kasane, in the far north-east, the average maximum of October is 35 °C. Here are the average temperatures in Tsumeb.
Tsumeb average temperatures
Tsumeb J F M A M J J A S O N D
Min (°C) 18 18 17 15 11 8 8 10 15 18 18 18
Max (°C) 31 30 29 28 26 24 24 27 31 33 32 31

In Tsumeb, 555 mm or rain per year fall. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation Tsumeb
Tsumeb J F M A M J J A S O N D Year
Prec. (mm) 120 140 80 40 6 0 0 0 1 19 55 95 556
Days 12 12 9 5 1 0 0 0 0 3 6 11 59

As mentioned, the north, where Tsumeb is located, is the wettest area of the country. In the vast Etosha National Park, where there are protected species such as the black rhino, we find the Etosha Pan, a salt lake which is dry most of the year, but during the rainy season becomes a shallow lake. In the wettest years, there may be flooding in the Etosha region and in the Cuvelai Basin.
The northeast is the rainiest area: the Kavango Region and the Caprivi Strip are covered by the savannah biome, also there are major rivers such as the Okavango and Zambezi, along whose banks the forest flourishes.

Elephants in the Caprivi Strip

In the capital Windhoek, in the centre of the country and at 1,700 metres above sea level, the average temperature goes from 14 °C in June and July, to 24 °C in December and January. So the summer is hot despite the altitude, and much warmer than along the coast. In winter the days are very mild, indeed even slightly warm, but at night it can get cold. Here are the average temperatures.
Windhoek average temperatures
Windhoek J F M A M J J A S O N D
Min (°C) 18 17 16 13 10 7 7 9 12 15 16 17
Max (°C) 30 29 27 26 23 21 21 24 28 29 30 31

Winter is a very sunny season, during which it almost never rains. From November to April instead some rain falls, but only from January to March the rains reach on average 70/80 mm per month. The total annual precipitation of 370 mm makes the climate arid, but in some years, when tropical air masses from Angola arrive up to here, in the rainy season it can rain a lot. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation Windhoek
Windhoek J F M A M J J A S O N D Year
Prec. (mm) 75 75 80 40 6 1 1 0 1 12 35 45 371
Days 8 9 8 3 1 0 0 0 0 2 4 6 41

In the southern part of the plateau, the climate is more arid, in fact as mentioned we are in the Kalahari desert. Here the summer rains are too poor to lower the temperature, so that the hottest season is just the summer, with highs of 34/35 °C from December to February. On the other hand, the southern position makes the winter colder, at the same altitude. Here are the average temperatures of Keetmanshoop, which is located at 1,000 metres of altitude.
Keetmanshoop average temperatures
Keetmanshoop J F M A M J J A S O N D
Min (°C) 18 18 16 13 9 6 5 7 9 12 15 17
Max (°C) 35 34 32 29 25 21 21 24 26 30 32 34

The rainfall amounts to 145 mm per year, with a peak of 40 mm in February, so it is at a desert level.
Average precipitation Keetmanshoop
Keetmanshoop J F M A M J J A S O N D Year
Prec. (mm) 23 40 37 15 4 2 1 0 2 5 9 9 147
Days 4 5 5 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 2 2 22

When to go

The best time to visit Namibia as a whole is the austral winter, from June to August: it's a dry and sunny period, and it's the only one that allows to avoid the intense heat; on the plateau, however, nights are cold.
The coast, having a mild climate can be visited all year round, but in winter it's cooler, especially in August, while it's more mild, stable and sunny from November to February: hence, on the coast the best time is reversed compared with the rest of the country.
In the northeast, it's better to avoid the summer, from November to March, because of both the heat and the rains, but also September and October which may have torrid days.
Wanting to visit Namibia during the rainy season, for example at Christmas, you can choose the coast and the southern regions, bearing in mind that in inland areas and in particular in the Kalahari, the days are definitely hot, but at least it doesn't rain, or at most there may be some brief downpours or thunderstorms.

What to pack

In winter (June to August): on the coast, spring/autumn clothes, a sweatshirt or sweater and a jacket. In Windhoek and the plateau, spring/autumn clothes, with the possibility of adding or removing the outer layer, sweater, hat and warm jacket for the evening.

In summer (December to February): along the coast, spring/autumn clothes, t-shirt, shirt, sweatshirt and light jacket. In Windhoek and the plateau, light clothes for the day, sun hat, a sweatshirt for the evening, light raincoat or umbrella.

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