Ethiopia is in the tropical zone laying between the Equator and the Tropic of Cancer. It has three different climate zones according to elevation.
Kolla (Tropical zone) – is below 1830 metres in elevation and has an average annual temperature of about 27 degree Celsius with annual rainfall about 510 millimetres. The Danakil Depression (Danakil Desert) is about 125 metres below sea level and the hottest region in Ethiopia where the temperature climbs up to 50 degree Celsius.
Woina dega (Subtropical zone) – includes the highlands areas of 1830 – 2440 metres in elevation has an average annual temperature of about 22 degree Celsius with annual rainfall between 510 and 1530 millimetres.
Dega (Cool zone) – is above 2440 metres in elevation with an average annual temperature of about 16 degree Celsius with annual rainfall between 1270 and 1280 millimetres.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT ETHIOPIA?
The dry season runs from September through to March which is the best time to travel to Ethiopia. The long rains run from July through to the end of September. There are short rains in April and May called the belg which are nothing really to write home about. The weather dries up a little May/ June prior to the main rains beginning again in July. Southern Ethiopia follows a broadly similar pattern to Kenya with heavier rains in April, May and November.
WHAT IS THE ETHIOPIAN CLIMATE LIKE?
Climatically speaking, the world media’s perception of Ethiopia as a land of famine gives rise to impressions of a country without rain, cover or waterways. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Ethiopia constitutes the bulk of the Horn of Africa, and as such spans subtropical and tropical east Africa. The Ethiopian section of the Great Rift Valley runs north-east to south-west, from Eritrea to northern Kenya’s Lake Turkana, and much of the country’s northern, western, central and southern areas are dominated by a series of highlands collectively known as the Ethiopian Plateau.
As a result of its position and its varied topography, Ethiopia’s climate varies – broadly speaking – from tropical in the north-eastern lowlands and south-eastern lowlands to temperate and cool in the highlands. Temperatures in the tropical lowlands average out at around 27°C, while those in the highlands are dependent on altitude, and range between 16 and 22°C.
In general, the further west one travels, the wetter it gets, with annual rainfall figures ranging from as low as 140mm in the north-east lowlands to in excess of 2300mm in the south-west. Seasonal rains in Ethiopia are largely provided by the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), which migrates up and down equatorial Africa, bringing rain to the northern highlands in July and August, and to the central highlands between June and September. Known in Ethiopia as the Kiremt, these are the long rains, and areas affected receive between 200 and 1200 mm per year. Shorter, less consistent rains – the Belg – occur in parts of the south between March and May, and in parts of the northern and central highlands between February and May, and provide an annual rainfall of between 100 and 750 mm. As the ITCZ moves south, another set of short rains in the south – the Bega – sweep briefly across much of central and south-west Ethiopia, bringing to the area between 100 and 300mm annually.
In Ethiopia, this variation in climate is traditionally divided into three main climatic zones: Dega, Weyna Dega and Kolla. The first of these – Dega – refers to coldish, less than temperate zones with altitudes ranging between 2,600 and 3,200m. The second zone – Weyna Dega – is warm, wet and lies below 2,600m. The last – Kolla – is drier (and much warmer) than Weyna Dega, and can be found in areas such as the Rift Valley. In addition to these, travellers will occasionally come across Bereha and Worch, both of which refer to Ethiopia’s more extreme climatic zones, the first to the desert habitats that border Somalia and Djibouti, the second to afro-alpine areas above 3,200m.