Index


Introduction



The climate of Senegal is tropical, with a long dry season (which runs roughly from mid-October to mid-June in the north, and from early November to mid-May in the south), and a rainy season (approximately from late June to early October in the north, and from late May to late October in the south), due to the African monsoon, which in summer moves from south to north; hence, in the south (zone 2 in the map) the rainfall is more abundant, and it goes from 600 to 1,500 millimetres (23.5 to 60 inches) per year, while in the north and the center (zone 1), which is part of the Sahel, the annual rainfall is lower than 600 mm (23.5 in).

Climatic zones in Senegal

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 dry season, a dry north-eastern wind, called Harmattan, capable of filling the air with dust from the desert, often blows throughout the country. In the coolest months, December and January, the daytime temperatures range between 32 and 34 °C (90 and 93 °F) in inland areas, while they are a bit less hot on the coast, and much cooler in Dakar, around 25 °C (77 °F). Sometimes it can get a bit cool at night across the country, with night temperatures below 15 °C (59 °F), while at other times it can get very hot during the day, with highs around 35 °C (95 °F) in Dakar and 40 °C (104 °F) in the interior.
By 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 (100 °F) in the south and 40 °C (104 °F) in the north, while the coast is definitely more temperate, especially in Dakar, where the average maximum is still around 26 °C (79 °F) in May. The peaks are noticeable: around 45 °C (113 °F) in inland areas, and even 47/48 °C (117/118 °F) in the north-east (see Matam).
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, moist and rainy days alternate with hot and dry days. Roughly 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 and the center, 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 as high as 9 in Matam.
In the northernmost region of Saint-Louis, where the Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary is located, and in the cities that rise along the Senegal river, such as Richard-Toll and Podor, precipitation amounts to only 240/350 mm (9.5/13.5 in) per year; in Dakar, in the center, it amounts to 515 mm (20 in) per year, while in the south it reaches 1,600 mm (63 in). The temperatures are different as well: the monsoon lowers the daytime temperatures to 29/30 °C (84/86 °F) in the south, while in the north they remain higher, around 35 °C (95 °F).
At the end of the rainy season, between October and November, the temperature starts to increase again, reaching 37/38 °C (99/100 °F) in the center-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 (86 °F) during the warmest months, which are September and October.

The center-north



Along the northern part of the coast, at least down to the latitude of Dakar, there's a cool sea current which lowers the temperature of the coastal towns by a few degrees, compared with inland areas.

Saint-Louis

In the northern part of the coast, in Saint-Louis, during the day it is hot all year round, and the temperatures are fairly constant, around 31/32 °C (87/90 °F), except in October and November, when they are a little higher. At night, however, the temperatures vary in a more clear manner: the winter nights are cool, while in summer, in the rainy season, a muggy heat dominates. However, all year round there can be torrid days, when the wind blows from the interior. Here are the average temperatures.
St. Louis - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)151617181922242525242016
Max (°C)303233323030313232343331
Min (°F)596163646672757777756861
Max (°F)869091908686889090939188

In Saint-Louis, 260 mm (10.2 in) of rain per year fall; the only rainy period goes from July to eraly October, in which however the rains are not particularly frequent, nor abundant (but in some years they can be, especially in August and September). Here is the average rainfall.
St. Louis - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)2200074095902501260
Prec.(in)0.10.10000.31.63.73.510010.2
Days11000146610121

The sun in Saint-Louis shines all year round, and is often seen even in the rainy season.
St. Louis - Sunshine
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Hours8891097888888

The sea in Saint-Louis is cool from January to May, while it gets warm enough for swimming from June to December, with a maximum from August to October.
St. Louis - Sea temperature
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp (°C)202020202124262828282623
Temp (°F)686868687075798282827973

South of Saint-Louis, a short distance from the sea there is even a small desert, with sand dunes, the Lompoul Desert.

Lompoul Desert

Dakar

The capital Dakar is located in a particularly mild area, because it's on the tip of a peninsula (the Cap-Vert peninsula), overlooking the ocean, and enjoys by far the mildest climate of Senegal. Actually, sometimes until April or even May a very cool wind blows from the sea. Here are the average temperatures.
Dakar - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)181818192124252525252321
Max (°C)252525252629303031313027
Min (°F)646464667075777777777370
Max (°F)777777777984868688888681

In Dakar, 515 mm (20 in) of rain per year fall; the only very rainy months, which receive more than 150 mm (6 in), are August and September. Here is the average rainfall.
Dakar - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)0000010652351753000515
Prec.(in)000000.42.69.36.91.20020.3
Days000002611940032

In Dakar the sun shines for a good number of hours all year round, though a little less from July to September, ie the rainy season.
Dakar - Sunshine
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Hours8991098877888

The sea, at the height of Dakar, is definitely cool from January to April, around 20/21 °C (68/70 °F), while it becomes warm from June to November, from 25 to 28 °C (77 to 82 °F).
Dakar - Sea temperature
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp (°C)212020212225272828282724
Temp (°F)706868707277818282828175

The coast south of Dakar, called Petite Côte (see Rufisque, Popenguine, Saly, Nianing), is sheltered from the currents and has often a calm sea.

Matam

In the inland areas of the north, the temperatures are much higher. It is often very hot even in winter, though the hottest period goes from April to June, before the rains arrive. Since the rainy season here is not very intense, there's an intense heat even in this period. In Matam, in the north-east, the temperatures can exceed 40 °C (104 °F) all year round, with peaks of 47/48 °C (117/118 °F) in April and May. Here are the average temperatures.
Matam - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)161720232627262525241917
Max (°C)343639414241373536383734
Min (°F)616368737981797777756663
Max (°F)93971021061081069995971009993

In Matam, 570 mm (22 in) of rain per year fall, of which more than 100 mm (4 in) per month only from July to September. Here is the average rainfall.
Matam - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)20101701402151251500570
Prec.(in)0.100002.85.58.54.90.60022.4
Days000015611710031

The south



In the south the rainy season is more intense and a little longer, to the point of changing the landscape, which becomes greener, especially during the rainy period. Even the temperature during this period decreases more clearly, reaching around 30 °C (86 °F), but on the other hand the humidity increases. The most humid region is the one called Casamance, located south of the Gambia.

Cap Skirring

In the southernmost part of the coast, in Cap Skirring it is hot all year round, and the temperatures are fairly uniform. Here too, however, night temperatures are slightly lower from December to February, while in the rainy season there is a humid heat that persists even at night. In April and May the temperature tends to decrease a bit, even though it still doesn't rain. Here are the average temperatures.
Cap Skirring - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)191919212325252524252320
Max (°C)333331303032313131333332
Min (°F)666666707377777775777368
Max (°F)919188868690888888919190

In Cap Skirring, 1,400 mm (55 in) of rain fall, with a maximum in August, more than 100 mm (4 in) per month from June to October, and rains very rare or absent in the rest of the year.
In Cap Skirring the sea is a bit less cool in winter than in Dakar, so that the water temperature does not drop below 22/23 °C (72/73 °F) from January to April.
Cap Skirring - Sea temperature
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp (°C)232222232428282828292826
Temp (°F)737272737582828282848279

Ziguinchor

In the south too, the interior it is hotter than the coast, especially from February to May, while the summer temperatures decrease more clearly, because the rains are more frequent and abundant.
Here are the average temperatures of Ziguinchor.
Ziguinchor - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)161718191921232323232218
Max (°C)323437373533313031323331
Min (°F)616364666670737373737264
Max (°F)909399999591888688909188

In Ziguinchor 1,650 mm (65 in) of rain per year fall, including even 560 mm (22 in) in August. Here is the average precipitation.
Ziguinchor - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)110111145405560340160811633
Prec.(in)00000.45.715.92213.46.30.3064.3
Days00001920221891080

The Niokolo-Koba Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as the Dindefelo waterfalls, are located in the south-east, therefore in the southern most humid region.

Niokolo-Koba National Park

Tropical cyclones



In the ocean to the west of Senegal, there is an area in which hurricanes, the tropical cyclones of the Atlantic, start to form; after they are formed, they move towards the west or the northwest and head to the Caribbean. In general, Senegal is not affected, because hurricanes are formed at a considerable distance, however, occasionally a hurricane can form a short distance from the coast and affect Senegal as well, with rainfall, and storm surges that can damage the coast, as happened at the beginning of September 2015 with Hurricane Fred.
Hurricanes are generally formed in this area in August and September.

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 (after the rainy season), but at least it doesn't rain. It's better to avoid the rainy season, at least in the south and from July to September.
A special case is represented by Dakar, particularly mild, where the weather is good for a long period, from December to May. However, in general on the coast the heat is less intense.
For a beach holiday, you can go from November to May, although as we have seen the sea is cool from January to May in the north-central, and (though a little less) from January to April in the south.

What to pack



In winter: light clothes for the day, sweatshirt and jacket for the evening (until April or May for Dakar), 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 desert wind; in Dakar, you can add a light sweatshirt; in 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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