Including a description of the climate and weather of Guinea and Liberia.
The three countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia lie on the west coast of Africa between 4° and 12°N. All have a coastline facing southwest towards the Atlantic Ocean and include an extensive coastal plain rising inland to a plateau area where heights exceed 1,000 m/3,300 ft. This similarity of situation and relief gives them a broadly similar climate.
In this part of Africa the intertropical belt of cloud and rain migrates northwards and southwards with the apparent movement of the overhead sun but lagging behind by some four to six weeks. From October to March, during the period of low sun, the weather is generally dry with many fine, hot, sunny days.
The season of high sun, from April to September, is the rainy season. The rainfall increases to a peak in July and August and then decreases until rain has almost ceased by November. In the north of Guinea the rainy season is a little shorter than in Liberia to the south.
Along the coast of these three countries, however, there is not much difference in the total annual rainfall, which is heavy everywhere, between 3,500 mm/160 in and 4,000 mm/180 in. This can be seen by comparing the table for Freetown in Sierra Leone, with those for Conakry in Guinea, and Monrovia in Liberia.
Annual rainfall only falls below 2,000 mm/80 in inland in the extreme east of Guinea, near the border with Mali.
Temperatures are consistently high around the year on the coast and, during the dry season, rise even higher inland. During the rainy season the coastal region is most uncomfortable because of the high relative humidity which rarely drops below 80% during the daytime.
The climate of this part of Africa has for long had an unenviable reputation; Sierra Leone was known as 'the white man's grave'. The high death rate among Europeans living there was due more to tropical diseases than to the direct effects of the climate.
There is no doubt, however, that the combination of constant high temperature and humidity makes this an uncomfortable climate. The higher temperatures inland are to some extend mitigated by the lower humidity. The harmattan, a persistent northeast wind, which blows during the dry season, is often dust-laden.
Sunshine amounts are rather low on the coast, particularly during the wet season when they average two to three hours a day. These figures rise inland, particularly in eastern Guinea. During the dry season they rise to eight to nine hours a day inland, but in some places on the coast they may be as low as five to six.
The table for Freetown illustrates conditions around the year in the coastal districts of Sierra Leone.
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