Sri Lanka is a large island in the Indian Ocean immediately south of India.
It consists of extensive lowland regions around the coast and a large mountainous interior where the highest peaks rise to over 2,400 m/8,000 ft. Situated between 6° and 10°N, it has a typical tropical climate which is somewhat modified by the seasonal wind reversal of the Asiatic monsoon (see India).
At lower levels temperatures remain high throughout the year and the high humidity and warm nights may feel uncomfortable to the visitor who has not yet become acclimatized. On the coast, however, the heat is modified by afternoon sea breezes so that it is rarely dangerous.
In the interior highlands temperatures are significantly reduced by altitude with the result that the climate is delightful for most of the year; rarely too hot by day and rarely so chilly as to be uncomfortable at night; frost is a very rare occurrence here.
Most of the country has an abundant or moderate rainfall which is well distributed throughout the year. The southwestern coast and mountain slopes are the wettest regions and here rainfall is greatest during the periods April to June and October to November.
The northeastern side of the island, particularly the lowlands, is much drier, with little rain between February and September. The main rainy season here is between October and January when the northeast monsoon blows onshore.
This area is often called the 'dry zone' but the term is a relative one. The southwest monsoon brings rather more rain to the southwestern side of the island between May and September but its arrival does not mark the same abrupt transition between a hot, dry season and a warm, wet season such as occurs in much of the Indian subcontinent.
Daily sunshine amounts vary from six to eight hours over much of the country, being least during the rainiest seasons, when cloudy disturbed weather may last for spells of two or three days. In many parts of the country much rainfall comes in afternoon showers accompanied by thunder.
The tables for Colombo and Trincomalee are representative of the lowlands of the southwest and northeast respectively. That for Nuwara Eliya shows the cooler conditions experienced in the higher parts of the interior.
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