Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Dry Land But for the Winter Months

At this stage the impression must not be given that it never rains in Libya. Although rainfall is not frequent, the highest level takes place in the hills of Cyrenaica and Tripolitania.However, there is no real rain season, and the rain that falls follows no seasonal patter. It is more or less sporadic and reliable.Statistic demonstrates that an average of 38 cm to 50cm of rain per year is the expected amount in the coastal regions. In the interior, at best, a meagre 20cm or so of rainfall can be hoped for.The greater part of the rainfall occurs during the period that is known as the Libyan winter, a period between the months of October and March.For the rest of the year, the country is to all intents and purposes dry. In fact, Libya is regularly subjected to long rainless periods. One idiosyncrasy of the Libyan climate had always been, until the recent past, an apparently cyclic period of drought that used to occur every five or six years.However, today the situation is a different one, and even during those years when the rain is particularly scarce, and during which the droughts of the past used to take place, modern technology has taken over to provide an uninterrupted and adequate source of water for agriculture.Until a few decades ago the people looked upon the periods of drought with both alarm and dread. At times this period lingered on for two en-tire seasons and when that used to take place the cultivation of crops used to come to a virtual standstill, leaving it its wake the hardship and the consequences that the Libyan people had to suffer.Strange as it may seem, winter in the northern parts of the land could be extremely cold.Sleet and even snow have been known to fall in the hilly regions of the costal belt. This takes place, although not regularly, in the higher grounds of both Tripolitania and Cyrenaica.As opposed to this, summer in such places as the Jafara plain can be uncomfortably hot. Hence the immense differences that exist in the temperatures which are recorded during the day and during the night.For instance, to the south, where the land is exposed to a relentless and scorching sun, temperatures soar during the day, only to plunge rapidly during the night, at times to below freezing point.There is no mystery about this. It is a typical feature of the desert terrain.It is these differences, in climate and in the terrain itself, which makes Libya one of the more interesting countries of North Africa, where only about 1.2% of the country is cultivated, and where, as of 1998, irrigation covered about 470,000 ha (1,161,000 acres) of the cultivated land.Weather in LibyaThe coastal region in Libya has a Mediterranean climate, with average temperatures in Tripoli ranging from 30°C (86°F) in summer to 8°C (46°F).Rainfall is mostly during the winter months and averages 380mm annually. Coastal towns can be humid, with levels as high as 80% in Tripolitania.The mountain regions experience more rainfall, particularly during the winter and early spring. Summers here are cooler than on the coastal plain.Southern Libya has a desert climate with daytime winter temperatures ranging between 15 and 20°C, falling below zero at night. During the summer months there is virtually no rainfall and temperatures soar to over 50°C.In the northwest a scorching wind, known as the ghibli, blows from the Sahara along the coast at the time of the spring solstice. This causes a sharp drop in humidity and a dramatic rise in temperature.