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Climate - Zambia

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

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

Flag - Zambia

Map - Zambia

Zambia is a country located in southern Africa, almost entirely covered by a plateau, which temper the climate, making the temperatures generally acceptable for most of the year.
In Zambia, the climate is tropical or sub-tropical, depending on altitude, with a hot humid and rainy season from mid-November to March, and a dry season from April to mid-November. In the dry season, there's a cool period from mid-May to mid-August, and a progressively warmer period from September to mid-November, when the heat becomes torrid, that is, intense but with low relative humidity. In fact, October is typically the hottest month of the year. On the other hand, moisture is high during the rainy season, which begins around the middle of November, and lasts until the end of March.
During the cooler period, from mid-May to mid-August, at night it can get cold, especially in the southern regions, where the night temperature can drop to around freezing. The driest months are June, July and August, when it practically never rains. During the dry season, the weather conditions are generally good: the sky is clear and the air is limpid. Sometimes, however, due to the ancestral custom of burning crop residues in order to prepare the land for crop rotations, the air may smell of smoke, and some scattered fires can be seen. Instead, in October and November, the first thunderstorms after the dry season can cause natural fires, when lightning strike trees.
In the rainy season, the rains occur mainly in the form of downpour or thunderstorm. Floods caused by heavy rains are quite normal in Zambia. The wettest areas are the northern regions, namely North-Western Province, Copperbelt Province and Northern Province, where precipitation exceeds 1,000 millimetres per year, and in some areas it can reach 1,400 mm. The most arid area is the south-west, the southern part of Barotseland, where the Zambezi River separates Zambia from Namibia and Zimbabwe: in this area the annual rainfall is around 600 mm, or even a little below. The Zambezi River, on the border with Zimbabwe feeds the magnificent Victoria Falls, about 100 metres high, twice as wide and one and a half taller than the Niagara Falls.
The temperature in Zambia varies mainly according to altitude. The plateau's altitude ranges mostly from 900 to 1,500 metres, but some areas descend to almost 500 metres, in the far south along the Zambezi River and even in the east, in the Luangwa National Park, where the Luangwa River flows. On the contrary, in the north the altitude reaches 1,800 metres near Mbala, while in the north-east, near the border with Malawi, where the cool grassland of the Nyika National Park is found, it reaches even 2,200 metres. In the far north, a small portion of Lake Tanganyika belongs to Zambia, and its banks are at 770 metres, while the smaller Lake Mweru, located at no great distance, sits at 920 metres; further south but still in the Northern Province, Lake Bangweulu is at 1,150 metres. The Lukanga Swamp, located north-east of the Kafue National Park, is a vast wetland area at 1,100 metres above sea level.
The capital city is Lusaka, located at 1,250 metres above sea level. In December, January and February, at the height of the rainy season, here daytime temperatures hover around 26/27 °C, while the night temperatures are around 18 °C. In these months, about 200 mm of rain per month fall. In the coolest months, June and July, the temperature stay instead around 23 °C in the daytime, and 10 °C at night; sometimes, however, the night temperature may approach freezing. At the end of the dry season, from September to November, the highest temperatures of the year are recorded, with peaks of about 35/37 degrees.
Here are the average temperatures of Lusaka.
Lusaka average temperatures
Lusaka J F M A M J J A S O N D
Min (°C) 17 17 17 15 13 10 10 12 15 17 18 17
Max (°C) 26 26 27 26 25 23 23 25 29 31 30 27

Rainfall in Lusaka amounts to 850 mm per year, with a maximum from December to February, while from May to October it almost never rains. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation Lusaka
Lusaka J F M A M J J A S O N D Year
Prec. (mm) 220 185 110 40 3 0 0 0 1 14 80 190 843
Days 17 15 11 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 8 15 70

Livingstone, a city named after the Scottish explorer who discovered the Victoria Falls, is located in the far south, at 900 metres above sea level, just a few kilometres from the falls. Here the heat is intense from September to November, with peaks of 40 °C, while due to the more southerly location, winter nights are cold even though the altitude is slightly lower than in the capital: the cold record is -2 °C.
Here are the average temperatures.
Livingstone average temperatures
Livingstone J F M A M J J A S O N D
Min (°C) 19 19 17 15 11 7 7 10 15 19 19 19
Max (°C) 29 29 30 30 28 25 25 28 32 35 33 30

Kafue National Park

When to go

The best time to go to Zambia is from May to August: it's the coolest of the year, and it's dry and sunny. However, nights can be cold, especially above 1,000 metres.
In September and October, the heat is intense, with peaks of 40 °C, especially at an altitude of about 1,000 metres or less. During the rainy season, not only the weather is hot and muggy, but the rains can cause flooding and make difficult to travel.

What to pack

In winter (June to August): light clothes for the day, as well as sweater, jacket and hat for the evening; sun hat, sunscreen.
In summer (December to February): light clothes for the day, sun hat; a sweatshirt and a spring jacket for the evening; light raincoat or umbrella.

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