Mozambique is about three times the size of the United Kingdom. It is situated on the east coast of southern Africa between 11° and 27°S with a coastline of over 1,900 km/1,200 mi. It is bordered on the west by Malawi, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Although it extends outside the tropics, in the extreme south the whole country has a typically tropical climate. The extensive coastal lowlands are warm to hot for most of the year, while the interior plateau and the hills along the border with Malawi and Zimbabwe are mild to warm even in the cooler dry season from April to September. The warm Mozambique current flows southwards along the coast and is an important influence on the climate of the country. The whole country experiences a single rainy season at the time of high sun, when the intertropical belt of cloud and rain is farthest south.
The wettest regions are the highlands on the Malawi and Zimbabwe borders and the southeast coast between Beira and Maputo which are more exposed to the southeast trade winds throughout the year. Here annual rainfall is between 1,000 mm/40 in and 1,500 mm/60 in. The driest areas are the lowlands inland, particularly the Zambezi valley, with between 500-750 mm/20-30 in. In some places the annual rainfall is as low as 375 mm/15 in.
In the south most of the rain falls between December and March but farther north this period lengthens by a few weeks. The coast of northern Mozambique is occasionally affected by tropical cyclones in the Indian Ocean. These move south between Madagascar and the mainland, but the majority pass east of Madagascar and hardly affect Mozambique. These cyclones bring heavy rain and strong winds which can cause extensive damage. One reason for the comparatively low rainfall over much of the coastal lowlands is the shelter provided by the large mountainous island of Madagascar, which is fully exposed to the moist southeast trade winds. The eastern side of Madagascar is particularly wet as compared with Mozambique.
Temperatures on the coast and in some lowland regions can be rather sultry and oppressive, and this is made worse by the high humidity during the rainy season. Although the days may be hot inland at higher levels, there is a welcome drop in temperature at night and humidity is lower. Over most of the country the weather is fairly sunny for much of the year with an average of seven to nine hours of sunshine per day.
The tables for Maputo and Sofala are representative of conditions on the coast in the drier south and in the wetter centre respectively. That for Tete shows the higher temperatures and lower humidity found inland; also the low rainfall typical of some inland areas.
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