Africa > East Africa > Somalia > Somalia Geography Profile 2013

Somalia: Somalia Geography Profile 2013



Africa's easternmost country, Somalia has a land area of 637,540 square kilometers. Somalia occupies the tip of a region commonly referred to as the Horn of Africa--because of its resemblance on the map to a rhinoceros's horn--that as well includes Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti.

Somalia's terrain consists mainly of plateaus, plains, and highlands. In the far north, however, the rugged east-west ranges of the Karkaar Mountains lie at varying distances from the Gulf of Aden coast. The weather is hot throughout the year, except at the higher elevations in the north. Rainfall is sparse, and most of Somalia has a semiarid-to- arid environment suitable only for the nomadic pastoralism practiced by well over half the people. Only in limited areas of moderate rainfall in the northwest, and particularly in the southwest, where the country's two perennial rivers are found, is agriculture practiced to any extent.

The local geology suggests the presence of precious mineral deposits. Somalia's long coastline (3,025 kilometers) has been of importance chiefly in permitting trade with the Middle East and the rest of East Africa.

Due to Somalia's proximity to the equator, there is not much seasonal variation in its climate. However, there are some very unpredictable rainfalls that occur sometimes. Hot conditions prevail year-round along with periodic monsoon winds and irregular rainfall. Mean daily maximum temperatures range from 30 to 40 °C (86 to 104 °F), except at higher elevations and along the eastern seaboard, where the effects of a cold offshore current can be felt. In Mogadishu, for instance, average afternoon highs range from 28 °C (82 °F) to 32 °C (90 °F) in April.

Some of the highest mean annual temperatures in the world have been recorded in the country; Berbera on the northwestern coast has an afternoon high that averages additional than 38 °C (100 °F) from June through September. Nationally, mean daily minimums usually vary from about 15 to 30 °C (59 to 86 °F).[4] The greatest range in climate occurs in northern Somalia, where temperatures sometimes surpass 45 °C (113 °F) in July on the littoral plains and drop below the freezing point during December in the highlands.In this region, relative humidity ranges from about 40 % in the mid-afternoon to 85 % at night, changing somewhat according to the season.


Unlike the climates of most other nations at this latitude, conditions in Somalia range from arid in the northeastern and central regions to semiarid in the northwest and south. In the northeast, annual rainfall is less than 4 inches (100 mm); in the central plateaus, it is about 8 to 12 inches (200 to 300 mm). The northwestern and southwestern parts of the country, however, receive considerably additional rain, with an average of 20 to 24 inches (510 to 610 mm) falling per year. Although the coastal regions are hot and humid throughout the year, the hinterland is typically dry and hot.[4]

Most of the country receives less than 500 millimeters (19.7 in) of rain annually, and a large area encompassing the northeast and much of northern Somalia receives as little as 50 to 150 millimeters (1.97 to 5.91 in). Certain higher areas in the north, however, record additional than 500 millimeters (19.7 in) a year, as do some coastal sites. The southwest receives 330 to 500 millimeters (13.0 to 19.7 in). 

Generally, rainfall takes the form of showers or localized torrential rains and is extremely variable. Mean daily maximum temperatures throughout the country range from 30 to 40 °C (86 to 104 °F), except at higher elevations and along the Indian Ocean coast. Mean daily minimum temperatures vary from 20 °C (68 °F) to additional than 30 °C (86 °F). Northern Somalia experiences the greatest temperature extremes, with readings ranging from below freezing in the highlands in December to additional than 45 °C (113 °F) in July in the coastal plain skirting the Gulf of Aden.

The north's relative humidity ranges from about 40 % in midafternoon to 85 % at night, varying somewhat with the season. During the colder months, December to February, visibility at higher elevations is often restricted by fog. Temperatures in the south are less extreme, ranging from about 20 to 40 °C (68 to 104 °F). The hottest months are February through April. Coastal readings are usually five to ten degrees cooler than those inland. The coastal zone's relative humidity usually remains about 70 % even during the dry seasons.

There are four major seasons around which pastoral and agricultural life revolve, and these are dictated by shifts in the wind patterns. From December to March is the Jilal, the harshest dry season of the year. The major rainy season, referred to as the Gu, lasts from April to June.

This period is characterized by the southwest monsoons, which rejuvenate the pasture land, particularly the central plateau, and briefly transform the desert into lush vegetation. From July to September is the second dry season, the Xagaa (pronounced "Hagaa"). The Dayr, which is the shortest rainy season, lasts from October to December.The tangambili periods that intervene between the two monsoons (October–November and March–May) are hot and humid.


Eastern Africa, bordering the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, east of Ethiopia

Geographic coordinates: 

10 00 N, 49 00 E

Map references: 


Area comparative: 

slightly smaller than Texas

Land boundaries Total: 

2,340 km

Land boundaries Note: 


principally desert; northeast monsoon (December to February), moderate temperatures in north and hot in south; southwest monsoon (May to October), torrid in the north and hot in the south, irregular rainfall, hot and humid periods (tangambili) between monsoons


mostly flat to undulating plateau rising to hills in north

Natural resources: 

uranium and largely unexploited reserves of iron ore, tin, gypsum, bauxite, copper, salt, natural gas, likely oil reserves

Natural hazards: 

recurring droughts; frequent dust storms over eastern plains in summer; floods during rainy season

Environment - current issues: 

famine; use of contaminated water contributes to human health problems; deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification

Geography note: 

strategic location on Horn of Africa along southern approaches to Bab el Mandeb and route through Red Sea and Suez Canal