Ethiopia is a mountainous country in East Africa situated between 18° and 4°N. It is bordered by Sudan on the west, Kenya on the south, Somalia and Djibouti on the east, and Eritrea in the north. Large parts of the country lie between 1,800 m/6,000 ft and 2,400 m/8,000 ft and the highest mountain rises to over 4,600 m/15,000 ft.
There are lowland regions in the east of the country. Most of Ethiopia has a tropical climate moderated by altitude, with a marked wet season at the time of high sun. The eastern lowlands are much drier with a hot, semi-arid to desert climate.
In the highlands of Ethiopia temperatures are reasonably warm around the year but rarely very hot. Above 1,800 m/6,000 ft the daily temperatures are rather similar to those in summer in northern France or New England. Most of the rain comes during the period April to September. In the west there tends to be a single maximum of rainfall in July and August, but towards the east there is often a brief wetter period in April and May then a pause before the heavier rains in July and August.
The rainy season is often called the monsoon in Ethiopia because it is associated with a change in the predominant wind direction; northeast winds prevail during the dry season and westerly to southwesterly winds during the rains. Rainfall is above 1,000 mm/40 in a year almost everywhere in the highlands and it rises to as much as 1,500-2,000 mm/60-80 in in the wetter western parts.
Night-time temperatures may fall to near or below freezing in the mountains, particularly during the dry season. Occasional snow may fall on the highest peaks but there are no permanent snowfields.
In the northeastern lowlands, the Danakil Desert, and in the southeastern lowlands, the Ogaden region, rainfall is low and temperatures are high around the year. The weather and climate are similar to that in the neighbouring countries of Somalia and Djibouti (see the table for Djibouti). The scanty rainfall, usually below 500 mm/20 in a year, is very unreliable and severe droughts often occur.
Over most of Ethiopia sunshine is much reduced during the wet season, when there is an average of two to four hours a day in July and August as compared with eight to nine hours during the months November to February. Thunderstorms are very frequent in the wetter parts of the country, occurring almost daily during the wet season; in many places there are over a hundred thunderstorms a year. Except in the hot lowlands, the climate of Ethiopia is generally healthy and pleasant, although the constant cloud and rain during the height of the wet season can be rather depressing for the visitor. The tables for Addis Ababa and Harar are representative of conditions throughout the year in the highlands.
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