In Iraq, the climate is desert in the center and the south, with mild winters and extremely hot summers, it's semi-desert in the north, with relatively cold winters, while in the northern mountains, the climate is cold and rainy (or snowy) in winter and hot and sunny in summer, but with cooler nights due to the high altitude.



In the north-eastern part of Iraq (zone 1 on the map), occupied by the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan (Zagros and Taurus), winters are cold and rainy, while summers are hot and dry, even scorching up to quite high altitudes. Annual precipitation ranges between 700 and 1,000 millimeters (27 and 40 inches), and occurs between October and April. This is the only area of Iraq which receives substantial rainfall.


In Sulaymaniyah, 850 meters (2,800 ft) above sea level, the average temperature ranges from 4 °C (39 °F) in January to 31 °C (88 °F) in July and August. So the summer is hot, as well as sunny, but the winter is cold, with possible snowfalls and frosts, when the area is reached by cold air masses from the north.
Here are the average temperatures in Sulaymaniyah.
Sulaymaniyah - Average temperatures
Min (°C)0151015202424201482
Max (°C)81016212835393935281911
Min (°F)323441505968757568574636
Max (°F)46506170829510210295826652

In Sulaymaniyah, annual precipitation amounts to 745 mm (29.5 in), most of which occurring from November to April, while it never rains from June to September. Here is the average precipitation.
Sulaymaniyah - Average precipitation

In the northernmost mountainous area, winter is even colder, and in the valleys at high altitude, it is freezing. At the highest altitudes, heavy snowfalls occur. The highest peak of Iraq is Cheekha Dar, 3,611 meters (11,847 feet) high, on the border with Iran.

Syrian desert

North-west of Mesopotamia, in the hilly area towards Syria (zone 4), the climate is desert, quite cold with frequent frosts in winter and hot in summer, though a bit less hot than in the plains because of altitude.


In Rutbah, 600 meters (2,000 feet) above sea level, the average is between 6.5 °C (43.5 °F) in January and 30 °C (86 °F) in July. In summer, the temperature can sometimes reach 45/47 °C (113/117 °F).
Ar Rutbah - Average temperatures
Min (°C)2581318222323201685
Max (°C)111518253035373633282014
Min (°F)364146556472737368614641
Max (°F)525964778695999791826857

Throughout the year, only 120 mm (4.7 in) of rain fall, concentrated in the winter months. In winter, snow and frost are possible during cold spells. Here is the average precipitation.
Ar Rutbah - Average precipitation

In the rest of Iraq, which is occupied by plains or hills (zones 2 and 3), the climate is arid, mild in winter and scorchingly hot in summer. Summer goes from June to September, but the months of May and October are hot as well. Although the climate in Mesopotamia is desert, the landscape can change locally due to the rivers, both where they give rise to wetlands, and where they are exploited to irrigate the fields.


In the northern belt (zone 2), the climate is arid, but in the cold half of the year, some depressions can affect this area for a few months, bringing moderate rainfall.


In Mosul, located in the northernmost part of the plain, on the banks of the Tigris River, not far from the ancient Nineveh, winter is mild, but it's certainly not tropical: the January average is 7 °C (44.5 °F). From December to March, it rains for 7/10 days per month, and sunny days alternate with periods of bad weather. At night, it often gets cold, and the temperature can sometimes drop a few degrees below freezing (0 °C or 32 °F). Summer in Mosul is very hot, with a relentless sun, and with daytime temperatures of 43 °C (109 °F) in July and August, but with peaks of 47/48 °C (117/118 °F); fortunately, however, air humidity is low.
Mosul - Average temperatures
Min (°C)2371116212524191474
Max (°C)121519253339434338312114
Min (°F)363745526170777566574539
Max (°F)5459667791102109109100887057

Throughout the year, in Mosul, 365 mm (14.5 in) of rain fall: they are not many, but they are concentrated between November and April, with very few rains in May and October, while it almost never rains between June and September. Here is the average precipitation.
Mosul - Average precipitation

In Mosul, the sun shines regularly in summer, while it shines quite often in winter, when, however, there are also cloudy periods. Here are the average sunshine hours per day.
Mosul - Sunshine

South-east of Mosul, Kirkuk has a similar climate because the more southern position is balanced out by the slightly higher altitude, around 350 meters (1,150 ft).

Nineveh Gates


Throughout central and southern Iraq (zone 3), the climate is desert or semi-desert, with mild winters, which are progressively warmer as you head south. Summers are extremely hot. Fortunately, even in this area, air humidity during the summer months is low because the prevailing winds, often lively and sometimes capable of generating dust storms, come from the west or the north-west and therefore from the interior. The wind is more frequent in the central and southern parts of the country.


In the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, the average temperature ranges from 9.5 °C (49 °F) in January to 35 °C (95 °F) in July, when highs are as high as 44 °C (111 °F). Here too, summer is hot and the sunshine reigns supreme, with peaks around 50 °C (122 °F): these temperatures make Baghdad one of the hottest capitals in the world. In winter, days are mild but nights are often cold, and the temperature may drop to a few degrees below freezing. Here are the average temperatures.
Baghdad - Average temperatures
Min (°C)46101520232625211695
Max (°C)161924303741444440332417
Min (°F)394350596873797770614841
Max (°F)6166758699106111111104917563

Throughout the year, only 150 mm (6 in) of rain fall, almost all occurring from November to March; from June to September, it never rains. Here is the average precipitation.
Baghdad - Average precipitation

In Baghdad, the sun shines quite often even from November to April, when, however, some weather fronts can sometimes affect the city. In summer, clear skies prevail, even though cloud banks can sometimes reach the area.
Baghdad - Sunshine


In the nearby cities of Kerbala and Ramadi, the climate is similar to that of Baghdad.
Further south, the temperatures rise a bit in winter: in Basra and Nasiriya, the average ranges from 11 °C (52 °F) in January to 35.5 °C (96 °F) in July. On the coast of the Persian Gulf, it reaches 12 °C (53.5 °F) in January. However, the south in winter may experience some slight frosts at night as well. Rainfall in the south amounts to only 100 mm (4 in) per year, a value typical of a desert climate.
Nasiriya - Average temperatures
Min (°C)681218242628272419138
Max (°C)172025323943454542352619
Min (°F)434654647579828175665546
Max (°F)63687790102109113113108957966

In Basra, the humidity in summer remains quite low, but it rises a bit compared with other cities, not because of the proximity of the sea but because of the presence of wetlands in the area: in July, the humidity in the afternoon rises to 23%, compared with 10% in Baghdad and 11% in Nasiriya. Instead, the sea has a limited influence: since the prevailing wind blows from the north-west, even in Al-Faw, located on the coast, the air in summer is often dry.

The Persian Gulf is very cool for swimming in winter, while it becomes very warm in summer, exceeding 30 °C (86 °F) for a few months. Here is the sea temperature at Al-Faw.
Al-Faw - Sea temperature
Temp (°C)191718212629313231292622
Temp (°F)666364707984889088847972

The south-western area of Iraq has a desert climate, and it's the driest area of the country; in fact, precipitation drops to about 50 mm (2 in) per year. In this area, there are practically no settlements because the population is concentrated since ancient times in Mesopotamia, the valley between the two rivers, Euphrates and Tigris.

In late winter and spring, Iraq can be affected by strong southerly winds, which may give rise to dust storms; these winds may occur even in autumn and winter, though more rarely. On the contrary, during the long summer months, the shamal blows, a moderate northwesterly wind, very hot and dry, which may cause rapid dehydration, and when it's more intense, it can raise dust or sand.

Best Time

As regards to the temperatures, the best times to visit Iraq are spring and autumn: in the north (see Mosul, Sulaymaniyah), below 1,000 meters (3,300 feet), the best months are April and from mid-October to mid-November, while in the center and south (see Baghdad, Basra), they are March and November: in this way, you avoid both the scorching heat of summer and the possible cold in winter. Sometimes, however, in these periods, it can rain, especially in the north. In May and October, the temperatures are already well above 30 °C (86 °F) and can already approach 40 °C (104 °F); on the other hand, it almost never rains.

What to pack

In winter: in the north and north-west (Mosul, Nineveh, Rutbah), bring warm clothes, a jacket, a hat, a raincoat or umbrella, and a scarf; in the mountains of Kurdistan, bring mountain clothing with warm boots; in the center and south (Baghdad, Basra), spring/autumn clothes, a jacket and a sweater, and a hat for cold nights.

In summer: in the whole country at low altitude, from north to south, bring lightweight, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing; light and long shirts and pants of natural fibers (cotton, linen), a sun hat, and a desert turban; in the north and north-west (Mosul, Nineveh, Rutbah), you can bring a light sweatshirt for the night and early morning. In the mountains of Kurdistan, light clothes for the day, a sun hat or desert turban, a sweatshirt or sweater for the evening, a jacket for the highest peaks, and hiking shoes.

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