Congo, Democratic Republic of
Including a description of the climate and weather of central Africa: Cameroon, Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea.
These six countries occupy an area of about 3.9 million sq km/1.5 million sq mi - almost half the area of Brazil or the United States. The countries extend almost equal distances on either side of the equator from 13°N to 13° S. A large part of the region consists of the basin of the Congo River and its numerous tributaries, and lies 300-600 m/1,000-3,000 ft above sea level.
The land rises on the Democratic Republic of Congo's southern border with Angola; along its northeastern border with Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi lies the western edge of the Great Rift Valley and the Ruwenzori mountain range with peaks rising to between 4,500 m/14,500 ft and about 5,100 m/16,500 ft.
There are also some high isolated mountain peaks in Cameroon. Only in these high mountain regions are temperatures significantly below tropical levels; snow may fall on the summits of the mountains.
With the exception of the high mountains, the region has an equatorial or tropical climate. The central part of the region, roughly between 4°N and the equator, has rain around the year with two periods when rain is heaviest and most probable. On either side of this typical equatorial rainfall area there are districts where rainfall is concentrated into a single rainy season at the time of high sun; there is a marked dry season at the time of low sun.
The double wet season with some rain in all months is well illustrated by the table for Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is almost on the equator; the single wet season with a pronounced dry season is illustrated by the table for Lubumbashi in 12°S in the southern tip of the country.
In the northern parts of Cameroon and the Central African Republic there is also a single rainy season as found in northern Nigeria and Chad when the sun is north of the equator between March and September.
The annual rainfall is moderately high over the whole of this large area, ranging from 1,200 mm/48 in to 2,000 mm/80 in. The only districts where rainfall is less than this is on the coast near the mouth of the Congo River and in the extreme northern and southern fringes of the region.
In small parts of the region, on the western side of the Cameroon mountains and on the mountains near the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of Congo, annual rainfall is significantly greater.
This is a region where temperatures remain high throughout the year. At lower levels near the equator they rarely fall below 18°C/64°F, even at night. Daytime maximum temperatures, however, rarely rise above 35°C/95°F.
Humidity remains high throughout the year and rarely falls very low during the hottest part of the day, so that the weather feels sultry and oppressive most of the time. Except during occasional thunder squalls, winds are light so that the temperature feels higher than the thermometer might suggest.
Temperatures rise rather higher during the daytime in those areas where there is a pronounced dry season; at this time humidity is also lower and these higher temperatures may not feel so oppressive as the lower temperatures during the wet season when there is higher humidity, much cloud, and little sunshine.
Temperatures are reduced by the effect of altitude in the mountain areas of Cameroon and the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, but these areas have much cloud, high humidity, less sun, and frequent heavy rain so that the climate is rather monotonous and unpleasant except during the brief spells of dry, clear, and sunny weather.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is the largest country in the region and amounts to over half the total area. It is almost entirely landlocked, with only a very short coastal strip on the Atlantic around the mouth of the Congo River, between the Republic of Congo and Angola.
This small area is affected by the same relative dryness that is typical of coastal Angola. Rainfall increases inland. The weather and climate of much of the central Democratic Republic of Congo are represented by the table for Kisangani.
The table for Kinshasa at 4°S shows a distribution of rainfall around the year more typical of the districts south of the equator; there is a single, long wet season with a short dry season from June to September when the sun is north of the equator.
The table for Lubumbashi situated at 12°S and at an altitude of 1,300 m/4,260 ft shows a prolonged dry season between May and October during which the night-time temperatures fall much lower then elsewhere. There is rather more sunshine here, particularly during the dry season.
Rainfall is lower during the rainy season, so that the climate is more like that found in the neighbouring regions of Zambia and Angola. Here the average number of sunshine hours a day ranges from four to five in the wet season to nine to ten in the dry season.
This is a greater variation and a larger number of hours of sunshine a year than occurs almost anywhere else in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and much more than in the consistently wet regions.
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