Tanzania represents a wealth of ecological diversity, ethnic diversity, and geographical diversity. It contains both the tallest mountain in Africa as well as the largest lake, and is a tourist hotspot for safaris and expeditions to Mt. Kilimanjaro. The citizens of Tanzania are utterly dependent on the weather for their two major businesses, agriculture and tourism. Thus, the climate of Tanzania is worth examining in greater detail.
Tanzania has two distinct seasons, wet and dry. However, the northern region of Tanzania can experience two wet seasons, the longest of which spans from March to May and the shortest from November to December. The March to May period is known as “the long rains”, during which excessive rainfall occurs. The shorter period from November to December is known as “the short rains”, where rainfall occurs intermittently and may last into January. The rest of the country experiences one wet season from November to May. Since Tanzania is located in the Southern hemisphere, December to March can be considered the country’s summer, and June to September its winter.
The seasons are “in fact the transition between the two main trade wind systems which dominate at different times of the year; the northeasterly trades between December and March, and the southeasterlies between June and September” (Sumner 53-66). Caused by the highly cyclic weather patterns of the intertropical convergence zone, these trade winds are the main factor in determining the change of seasons and are abetted by the very geography of Tanzania. The flow of air over the East African plateau causes the formation of the Southerly Jet which in turn regulates the Indian monsoon season. The jet flows in parallel to Tanzania’s coast, and is responsible for regulating the rainfall of the area (Sumner). The average rainfall is 20–55 inches per year.
The land of Tanzania, apart from Mt. Kilimanjaro, is relatively flat, with part of the East African plateau of about 1200 m above sea level making up most of the geography. Therefore, topographic influences do not play much of a part in regulating the creation of storm fronts there. The climate, while tropical, is best described as semi-arid, with average temperatures between 76 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
When I recorded Tanzania’s weather (specifically that of its capital, Dodoma) for ten weeks, I noticed very little precipitation (less than one inch during the ten weeks). It is true that the country was at that time undergoing its dry season, but the absolute lack of precipitation was surprising to me. The stark contrast between the dry and wet seasons can have severe consequences. If the wet season begins with a sudden, heavy rainfall, there is a large danger of damage to the crops, since “the vegetation cover is often scanty, so that there is little...