The Federation of Malaysia, in western maritime Southeast Asia, consists of three separate territories: Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak, and Sabah.
Malaysia is a narrow mountainous peninsula south of Thailand; Sarawak and Sabah occupy the northern portion of the large island of Borneo and have a land border with Indonesia. In all three territories the highest mountains rise to over 2,000 m/6,500 ft.
Situated between 1° and 7°N, the whole of Malaysia has an equatorial climate with high temperatures and wet months round the year. The principal differences of climate within the country are those arising from difference of altitude and the exposure of the coastal lowlands to the alternating southwest and northeast monsoon winds.
The former blow from April to September, and the latter from November to February. There is a brief period of light variable winds during the changeover in March and October. Coasts exposed to the northeast monsoon in Malaysia tend to be wetter than those exposed to the southwest monsoon.
Rainfall is well distributed throughout the year and falls on as many as 150 to 200 days almost everywhere. In most places there is a definite double rainy season, with the heaviest rains falling in the two periods March to May and September to November.
The tables for Kuching, in Sarawak and Labuan, in Sabah show that here the period November to March, when the northeast monsoon is blowing, is the wettest period.
Temperatures vary little from month to month, humidity is high, and there is no large daily range of temperature so night-time temperatures are oppressive. Temperatures are distinctly lower in the hills where there are a number of resorts but, although there is little stress from temperature in the hills, the higher humidity, greater rain, and less sunshine offset this benefit.
The tables for Kuala Lumpur, which is situated inland at a low altitude, and Penang on the west coast are representative of the lowland areas of Malaysia. That for Cameron Highlands shows the cooler, wetter conditions in the mountains. The table for Singapore is more representative of the east coast of Malaysia.
The climate of Malaysia is rather oppressive and humid for visitors who are not acclimatized but severe heat stress is rare. The worst months are March, April, and October when winds are light during the changeover from the southwest to northeast monsoons.
During the afternoons conditions on the coast are relieved by sea breezes. Wind speed is the most important influence in Malaysia in mitigating the oppressive sultry heat. Daily hours of sunshine are inversely proportional to amount of rain.
They average from four to five hours during the wettest months to eight or nine during the drier periods. As in many other parts of the equatorial regions, much of the rain is heavy and accompanied by thunder.
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