Field guide training: Climate and weather – Part 4

Altitude profile as well as the distance to the equator are important factors which influence climate. Further information can be found in the following blog article.

Rangerausbildung: Zwei Field-Guide-Studenten blicken in die Savanne Afrikas

In the previous chapter, the influence of the oceans on South Africa's climate was explained. But the altitude profile and the distance to the equator are also important factors that determine the climate. In South Africa the temperature drops by 3°C per 1000 meters altitude. So if the temperature at sea level is 30°C, it would drop to 25.5°C at 1500 m. This significantly influences the composition of flora and fauna. In the southern hemisphere, climbing uphill is about the same as walking south, so that the flora and fauna found at higher altitudes in South Africa can also be found at lower altitudes further south.

Naturguideausbildung: Afrikanische Schlucht
Field-Guide-Ausbildung: Blick auf die afrikanische Savanne
Naturguide: Die afrikanische Wildnis mit Akazie im Vordergrund

In addition to altitude, the distance of a region to the equator also plays an important role. The southern circle of latitude (Tropic of Capricorn) and the northern circle of latitude (Tropic of Cancer) play a major role here. By definition, this is the southernmost or northernmost point where the midday sun just reaches its zenith. Every place between these two latitudes is subject to strong solar radiation and, therefore, higher temperatures and humidity. In addition, the less distinct seasons are further characteristics. These only differ in their rainfall rates, which are higher in winter than in summer. At the southern tip around Cape Town, Mossel Bay, Cape Agulhas and Port Elizabeth a rather Mediterranean climate prevails.

In a nutshell: As a field guide you should know that the climate in South Africa depends on the location to the oceans and the equator as well as on altitude differences. The north is rather hot and dry in summer and mild and humid in winter. The coastal areas are more Mediterranean where there is a strong temperature gradient between the east coast, influenced by the Agulhas, and the west coast, influenced by the Benguela.


Hine, Grant & Gilie; Nature Guide Level 1 - Learner Manual; South Africa; 2014

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