Hoedspruit is in the centre of the region in the Lowveld. Sitting at an altitude of around 400m (1,700 feet) above sea level, it tends to be hot and humid. The yearly average maximum temperature is around 29 degrees Celsius; the annual average minimum is just under 16 degrees.
The hottest months of the year are usually December, January and February where temperatures routinely exceed 31 degrees and rarely dip below twenty. The highest monthly average was recorded in 1982: 41.1C.
The coolest months are June and July where the average minima and maxima are 9C and 24.7C respectively. Game viewing is at its best in Winter as the bush is sparse and animals often converge on waterholes to find sustenance.
The local weather system yields a subtropical climate with hot, humid summers and mild, dry winters. Day temperatures of above 35° in summer are a common phenomenon.
The area's climate is related to the regional climate of the subcontinent as a whole in that it is influenced by anticyclonic systems moving rhythmically over southern Africa from west to east.
During the summer months the presence of anticyclonic conditions in the interior of southern Africa gives rise to extremely hot and dry conditions over the area which may persist for up to two weeks at a time.
Kruger Park Rainfall
Source: Kruger National Park
These conditions are normally followed by the development of a low-pressure cell over the interior, resulting in an influx of hot, moist equatorial air from the north and northeast, and subsequently thunderstorms as air is sucked down from the weather systems more normally associated with the Congo. The establishment of equatorial low-pressure troughs over the subcontinent often causes widespread and continuous rain over the Lowveld. This effect is known as Intertropical Convergence.
Like other semi-arid regions of the world, the Lowveld is exposed to great variations in the amount of rainfall received in any one year. The reason for the low rainfall in the Lowveld and its variability lie in the position of the region relative to the main weather-generating circulation systems. The latitude of the Central Lowveld coincides with a zone of dry, descending air.
This results in lots of sunshine and warm temperatures but little rain. It is only when the tropical circulation shifts southwards in the summer months that the high pressure cells can be elbowed aside, sucking moist air from over the ocean and sometimes leading to spectacular thunderstorms.
Tropical cyclones occasionally enter the area in the late summer months. They originate in the equatorial areas of the Indian Ocean when the surface temperature of the sea rises above 27°C and move slowly across the Mozambique Channel, gaining moisture as they proceed. The extremely high rainfall associated with tropical cyclones moving overland usually causes extensive flooding and destruction of roads and bridges.
Winter months are normally characterised by the presence of anticyclonic conditions over the interior of southern Africa which result in fine and mild conditions. These intermittently give way to cooler, cloudy conditions when cold frontal systems of polar origin penetrate from the south.
Research on the rainfall patterns in the KNP over the last 100 years indicates a cyclical tendency in rainfall volumes, with 10 years of above average rainfall typically followed by ten years of below average precipitation.
The average rainfall is around 500mm per annum. Rain usually falls between October and March, with a peak in December and January. On average there are thunderstorms for only 25 days of the year.
It is worth noting that the high temperatures during summer cause a high evaporation rate which reduces the effectiveness of the precipitation. Hail occurs on a regular basis, but at low frequencies. Mist in winter is common in the lower lying areas. Frost occurs as an exception in the lower lying areas of the Kruger National Park.
Climate acts with geology as a critical determinant of the ecological potential of a landscape. The climate of the Lowveld follows a trend from wetter and cooler weather in the south and west to drier and hotter in the areas of the north and east. These trends cut across the diverse geological belts to provide a wide variety of habitats, accounting for the great variety in the vegetation and wildlife in the region.
The wind usually blows from the South South East, usually under 12.6km/hr. The strongest winds of around 30km/h usually blow in October. From August to October this wind sometimes swings to blow from the north; this is usually a hot dry wind.
- Read a news article warning of potential changes to South Africa and the Kruger's climate here
- Read a thought-piece entitled "Is Rainfall Becoming Less Effective?" here
- Read about the Kruger's new environmental monitoring station