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Climate - Senegal

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

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

Flag - Senegal

Map - Senegal

The climate of Senegal is tropical, with a dry season from November to May, and a rainy season from mid-June to mid-October, due to the African monsoon, which in summer moves northward; hence, the rainfall is more abundant in the south, where it goes from 600 to 1,500 millimetres per year, while in the north-central, which is part of the Sahel, the annual rainfall is lower than 600 mm.
Consequently, the landscape varies considerably, being semi-desert in the north, while the south is occupied by the savanna, and has also gallery forests along the rivers. In the north-west, a short distance from the sea there is even a small desert, with sand dunes, the Lompoul Desert.
Lompoul Desert
The rainy season is known as hivernage ("wintering"), but despite the name it's a hot and humid period, especially in the south, while in the north, in this season moist and rainy days alternate with hot and dry ones.
Along the north coast, at least down to the latitude of Dakar, a cool current flows into the sea, which lowers the temperature of the coast to some degree compared with inland areas. The capital Dakar is located in a particularly mild area, because it's on the tip of a peninsula, overlooking the ocean, and enjoys by far the mildest climate of Senegal.
Here are the average temperatures of Dakar.
Dakar average temperatures
Dakar J F M A M J J A S O N D
Min (°C) 18 18 18 19 20 23 25 25 25 25 23 21
Max (°C) 26 25 25 25 26 29 27 30 31 31 30 28

In Dakar, 515 mm of rain per year fall; the only very rainy months, with more than 150 mm per month, are August and September. Here the average rainfall in Dakar.
Average precipitation Dakar
Dakar J F M A M J J A S O N D Year
Prec. (mm) 0 0 0 0 0 10 65 235 173 30 0 0 514
Days 0 0 0 0 0 2 6 11 9 4 0 0 32

In the dry season, a dry north-eastern wind, called Harmattan, often blows throughout the country. In the cooler months, December and January, the daytime temperatures range between 30 and 32 °C in inland areas, while they are much cooler along the coast, around 25 °C in Dakar. Sometimes it can get a bit cooler at night across the country, with night minima below 15 °C, while at other times it can get very hot during the day, with highs around 35 °C in Dakar and 40 °C in inland areas.
Starting in February, the temperature begins to rise, and reaches its highest levels from April to early June, before the arrival of the monsoon. In the interior, highs are normally around 38 °C in the south and 40 °C in the north, while the coast is definitely more temperate, especially in Dakar where the average maximum is still around 26 °C in May. The peaks are noticeable: around 45 °C in inland areas, and even 47/48 °C in the north-east (see Matam).
Matam average temperatures
Matam J F M A M J J A S O N D
Min (°C) 18 20 23 26 28 28 27 26 26 26 22 18
Max (°C) 31 35 37 40 41 39 36 34 35 37 36 32

From June to October, in the monsoon season, the temperature drops by a few degrees, but at the same time moisture increases. The rains occur in the form of showers in the north-central, while they are more persistent in the south, where the sky is often cloudy: in August, the wettest month, there are only 3 hours of sunshine per day in Ziguinchor, and even 9 in Matam. In Ziguinchor, in the humid southern region of Casamance, 1,650 mm of rain per year fall, including 560 mm in August
Here is the average precipitation in Ziguinchor.
Average precipitation Ziguinchor
Ziguinchor J F M A M J J A S O N D Year
Prec. (mm) 1 1 0 1 11 145 405 560 340 160 8 1 1633
Days 0 0 0 0 1 9 20 22 18 9 1 0 80

Here are the average temperatures.
Ziguinchor average temperatures
Ziguinchor J F M A M J J A S O N D
Min (°C) 16 17 18 19 19 21 23 23 23 23 22 18
Max (°C) 32 34 37 37 35 33 31 30 31 32 33 31

On the contrary, in the northern city of Matam, 570 mm of rain per year fall, including 215 mm in August, while in the northernmost region of Saint-Louis, where the Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary is located, precipitation drops to 240/350 mm per year. In Dakar, in the centre, as mentioned precipitation amounts to 515 mm per year. Even the temperatures are different: the monsoon lowers the daytime temperatures to 29/30 °C in the south, while in the north they remain higher, around 35 °C.
At the end of the rainy season, between September and November, the temperatures start to increase again, reaching 37/38 °C in the centre-north; this phenomenon is much less evident in the south. In Dakar, which is a world apart compared with the rest of the country, the trend is very different: the temperature rises gradually until it reaches about 30 °C during the warmer months, which are September and October.

The Niokolo-Koba Park, UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as the Dindefelo waterfalls, are located in the southernmost humid region.

Niokolo-Koba National Park

The sea, at the height of Dakar, is cool from January to April, around 20/21 °C, while it becomes warm from June to November, from 25 to 28 °C.
Sea temperature Dakar
Dakar J F M A M J J A S O N D
Sea (°C) 21 20 20 21 22 25 27 28 28 28 27 24

Compared with Dakar, the sea is slightly cooler in the northern part of the coast, and slightly warmer in the southern part.

When to go

The best time to visit Senegal is winter, from December to mid-February: it's warm in the coast, even hot in the interior, the sun shines and it practically never rains. Sometimes the heat can be intense in inland areas, but the humidity is low and the nights remain pleasantly cool. Spring is scorchingly hot, and partly autumn, from mid-October to November, but at least it doesn't rain. It's better to avoid the rainy season, especially from July to September in the south.
A special case is represented by Dakar, particularly mild, where the climate is good for a long period, from December to May.
For swimming, you may prefer to November and December, when the sea is warmer than the following months.

What to pack

In winter: light clothes for the day, sweatshirt and jacket for the evening, scarf or turban for the sand.
In summer: in the north, lightweight clothes, long and made of natural fabric (cotton or linen), turban for the wind from the desert; in Dakar, you can add a light sweatshirt; for the south, a light sweatshirt and a light raincoat for the rain. For women, it is best to avoid shorts and miniskirts outside of the beaches.

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Guinea Bissau

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