Although it is the hottest continent on the planet, Africa is also one of the largest and most diverse. There is a lot of variety in the habitats, temperatures, and weather conditions that are found all across the breadth of the continent. You might be wondering, though, does it snow in Africa?
Perhaps surprisingly to some, it does indeed snow in Africa. Areas of high altitude, like Mount Kilimajaro and in ranges like the Atlas Mountains, can be covered in snow all year round. There are also many African countries where snow is likely to fall in the winter months.
This article will tell you everything you need to know about the weather extremes that are present across the continent of Africa and, in particular, when and where you might see some snow.
Where Does it Snow in Africa?
There are large parts of Africa that never see any snow. As the hottest continent, around 60% of the landmass is made up of deserts and drylands where there is little precipitation, and the temperatures are rarely cold enough for water to freeze. There are parts of the continent, however, where snow is a yearly occurrence.
Snowfall is common at high altitudes, where temperatures are much lower and precipitation is more frequent. As warm, moist air rises, it forms clouds that gather around the peaks of taller mountains. At high elevation, precipitation is more likely to fall as snow, and there are some mountains in Africa that can be covered in snow all year round.
Some countries in Africa receive colder temperatures in certain months, particularly those that are further from the equator, so it is not uncommon for these regions to receive snow over winter.
In Which African Countries Does It Snow?
It is easy to forget how vast and diverse the continent of Africa is. There are 54 different countries in Africa, and the ecosystems and habitats across them vary massively. In fact, you will find six main climate zones on the continent: Equatorial, Humid Tropical, Tropical, Semi-desert (Sahalian), Mediterranean and Desert.
Multiple African countries have a climate which allows for some snowfall to be likely every year, and others where snow is a less common, but still possible, sight.
The African countries where some snow is an annual occurrence (either due to cold winter temperatures or high altitudes) include:
- The Democratic Republic of Congo
- South Africa
Countries that see snow less frequently include:
Which African Mountains Get Snow?
No matter what climate a country might be in, tall mountains are always more likely to see snow. There are several mountain ranges across the continent of Africa, and some of them get a lot of snow throughout the year.
Far in the north of the continent, you will find the famous Atlas Mountains. This range is around 1,600 miles long and runs along the coasts of both the Atlantic and Mediterranean Oceans, through Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. On the southern side of the Atlas Mountains stretches the vast expanse of the Sahara Desert.
These mountains are both tall and northerly, so conditions are right for snowfall throughout certain times of the year. Snow is most often present in the Moroccan and Algerian regions of the Atlas Mountains in the months of January and February. These countries are even home to several popular ski resorts that are active throughout the winter.
It is not uncommon for parts of the Atlas Mountains to receive snow from November all the way through to April and it is most prevalent at the highest points. The tallest mountain in the range is Mount Toubkal, within an area known as the High Atlas, and it is often surrounded by snow-capped peaks.
Drakensberg Mountain Range
The Drakensberg Mountain Range is the eastern part of what is known as the “Great Escarpment”, and it runs up the east part of South Africa.
The Drakensberg is a very popular destination in Africa for those seeking snow, and the mountains get enough yearly snowfall that it is even home to a ski resort: Tiffindell.
If you want to see snow in the Drakensberg, there are a few places that have the most consistent snowfall:
- Giant’s Castle: In Central Drakensberg, there is a large mountain known as Giant’s Castle. It is called this because the overall shape of the peaks and escarpment resemble a giant sleeping. It is also one of the most popular destinations on the continent for seeing snow.
- Highmoor: Highmore is a nature reserve in the central part of the Maloti-Drakensberg Park. It was South Africa’s first cultural and environmental World Heritage Site, and it experiences more snow than any other part of the mountains.
- Sani Pass: Accessible from the small villages of Himeville and Underberg, the Sani Pass gets some snowfall almost every winter.
- Golden Gate National Park: Though it is much more popular in the summer, the Golden Gate National Park often receives a good amount of snowfall throughout the winter months.
- Cathedral Peak: For more adventurous snowy vistas, Cathedral Peak is a 3,000-metre-tall mountain that can get snow on the peak as early in the year as April, and as late as September.
Perhaps the most famous mountain on the entire continent, Mount Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano that towers 4,900 meters above its plateau base and 5,895 meters above sea level. It is the fourth tallest mountain on the planet and is located in north-eastern Tanzania.
There are three volcanic cones that make up the mountain as a whole, and the highest points are where you will find the most snow. The peak of the Kibo summit is covered in snow almost all year round, and there are many glaciers that run down its sides as well.
The amount of snow and ice on Kilimanjaro has dramatically reduced in recent years, with one study showing that 85% of the ice cover was lost between 1912 and 2011.
The highest mountain in Kenya, and the second-highest in Africa as a whole, is Mount Kenya. It is located in the central region of Kenya and is around 3,825 meters tall, from the base.
Mount Kenya was covered in an ice cap for thousands of years, but its glaciers are now rapidly shrinking and may be gone within the next 30 years.
At its highest points (above 4,500 meters) Mount Kenya receives some snowfall throughout the year, but the air is very dry, so it is not a consistent occurrence. Most of the snow comes to Mount Kenya from March to December.
One of the most famous mountains in Africa, Table Mountain overlooks Cape Town in South Africa and it attracts millions of tourists every year. Snow is a rare occurrence on the mountain, but there will usually be a flurry or two over the winter, between the months of June and August.
In the last few years, however, Table Mountain has seen some more dramatic snowfalls that dropped enough to cover the entire mountain.
When Is It Winter In Africa?
Africa spans from the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere, so the winter months in each country vary depending on where they are located in relation to the equator. Countries around the equator, like Uganda and Kenya, rarely experience true seasons and instead have wet and dry periods throughout the year.
Countries in Africa that are further from the equator experience more varied seasonal weather. When the winter months actually fall, though, will depend on which hemisphere the country is located in. Morocco and South Africa, for example, experience winter at very different times of the year.
In Morocco, the seasons fall on:
- Spring: March, April, May
- Summer: June, July, August
- Autumn: September, October, November
- Winter: December, January, February
The seasons in South Africa, on the other hand, are:
- Spring: September, October, November
- Summer: December, January, February
- Autumn: March, April, May
- Winter: June, July, August
How Much Snow Does Africa Get?
Even in the countries where winter snowfall is more common, it’s rarely in large quantities. The regions that get more consistent snow, at greater depth, are the mountain peaks. At these higher altitudes, the temperatures stay cold, and the snow is able to build up.
Most African countries that do receive snowfall in the winter get smaller flurries that don’t often settle on the ground.
In Summary: Does It Snow in Africa?
So, does it snow in Africa? You may be surprised to hear that it does snow in many different parts of Africa, particularly in regions that have high altitudes or are further from the equator.
Many of the different mountain ranges across Africa, including the Atlas Mountains and the Drakensberg, get snow on the higher peaks every single year. You can even visit popular ski resorts in Morocco, Algeria, and South Africa.
Some countries across Africa are likely to receive at least a small amount of snow during the winter every single year. The winter months for African countries vary depending on which side of the equator the country is, and snow tends to be more common in countries that are further north or further south.