Map from Google - Iraq
In Iraq the climate is desert in the south-central part, with mild winters and hot, long summers, it's semi-desert in the north, with relatively cold winters, while in the northern mountains, the climate is cold and rainy (or snowy) in winter, warm and sunny in summer, but with cooler nights due to the high altitude.
part of Iraq (zone 1 on the map), occupied by the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan (Zagros and Taurus), has cold and rainy winters, while summers are hot and dry, even torrid up to quite high altitudes. The annual precipitation varies between 700 and 1,000 millimetres, and occurs between October and April. As a matter of fact, this is the only area of Iraq which receives substantial rainfall. In Sulaymaniyah
, 850 metres above sea level, the average temperature in January is 4 °C, while in July and August it's 31 °C. So the summer is hot as well as sunny, but the winter is cold, with possible snow and frost, when cold air masses arrive from the north.
Here are the average temperatures of Sulaymaniyah.
Average temperatures - Sulaymaniyah
The annual precipitation amounts to 745 mm, most of which occurring from November to April, while it never rains from June to September. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Sulaymaniyah
In the northernmost mountainous area, in inland valleys, winter becomes freezing cold, and at higher altitudes heavy snowfalls occur. The highest peak of Iraq is Cheekha Dar, 3,611 metres high, on the border with Iran.
-North-west of Mesopotamia, in the hilly area towards Syria (zone 4), the climate is desert, quite cold in winter, with frequent frosts, and hot in summer, but a bit less hot than the plains because of altitude. In Rutbah
, 600 metres above sea level, the average is between 6.5 °C in January and 30 °C in July. In summer the temperature can sometimes reach 45/47 °C.
Average temperatures - Ar Rutbah
Throughout the year, only 120 mm of rain fall, concentrated in the winter months; during winter. Snow and frost are possible during cold spells. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Ar Rutbah
In the rest of Iraq, which is flat or hilly (zones 2 and 3), the climate is arid, mild in winter and scorchingly hot in summer. Summer goes from June to September, but the months of May and October are still very hot. Compared with other desert and depopulated areas, in Mesopotamia the landscape changes locally, only because the rivers can create wetlands, and they also allow for irrigation in large areas.
-In the northern
region (zone 2) the climate is arid, but in the cold half of the year, for a few months there can be the passage of fronts, with moderate rainfall. In Mosul
, located on the northern plain, on the banks of the Tigris River, not far from the ancient Nineveh, the winter is mild, but certainly it's not tropical: the January average is 7 °C. From December to March it rains for 7/10 days per month, and sunny days alternate with periods of bad weather. At night it often gets cold, and sometimes the temperature can drop a few degrees below freezing. The summer in Mosul is very hot, with a relentless sun, and with daytime temperatures of 43 °C in July and August, but with peaks of 47/48 °C; fortunately, however, the air humidity is low.
Average temperatures - Mosul
Throughout the year, in Mosul, 365 mm of rain fall: they are not many, but they are concentrated between November and April, with very few rains in May and October, while between June and September it almost never rains. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Mosul
South-east of Mosul, Kirkuk
has a similar climate, because the more southern position is balanced by the slightly higher altitude, that is, 350 metres.
-Throughout the south-central
Iraq (zone 3) the climate is desert or semi-desert, with mild winters, and becomes progressively warmer as you head south; summers are very hot. Fortunately, even in this area the relative humidity during the summer months is low, because the prevailing winds, often lively and sometimes capable of generating dust storms, come from the west or north-west and therefore from the continent. The wind is more frequent in the south central part of the country.
In the Iraqi capital Baghdad
, the average temperature goes from 9.5 °C in January to 35 °C in July, with average highs of 44 °C. Here too summer is hot and the sunshine reigns supreme, with peaks of around 50 °C: these temperatures make Baghdad one of the hottest capitals in the world. In winter, days are mild but nights are often cold, and the temperature may drop a few degrees below freezing. Here are the average temperatures.
Average temperatures - Baghdad
Throughout the year, only 150 mm of rain fall, almost all from November to March; from June to September it never rains. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Baghdad
In the near cities of Kerbala and Ramadi, the climate is similar to that of Baghdad.
Further south, the temperatures rise a bit in winter: in Basra and Nasiriya the average goes from 11 °C in January to 35.5 °C in July. On the coast of the Persian Gulf it reaches 12 °C in January. However, even the south during winter may experience some slight frosts at night. The rainfall in the south goes down to only 100 mm per year, a value typical of a desert climate.
Average temperatures - Nasiriya
In Basra, the summer humidity remains quite low, but it rises a little compared with other cities, not because of the proximity of the sea, but rather because of the presence of wetlands in the area: in July the humidity in the afternoon rises to 23%, compared with 10% in Baghdad, and 11% in Nasiriya. Since the prevailing wind comes from the north-west, even in Al-Faw, located on the coast, the air in summer is often dry.
The Persian Gulf is very cool for swimming in winter, while in summer it becomes very warm, exceeding 30 °C for a few months.
Sea temperature - Al-Faw
The south-western area
of Iraq has a desert climate, and it's the driest area of the country, so that precipitation drops to about 50 mm per year; the area is practically depopulated, because the population is concentrated from ancient times in Mesopotamia, the valley between the two rivers, Euphrates and Tigris.
Between the end of winter and the spring, Iraq can be affected by strong southerly winds
, which may give rise to dust storms; these winds may occur even in autumn and winter, though more rarely. On the contrary, during the long summer months, the shamal
blows, a moderate northwesterly wind, dry and torrid, which may cause rapid dehydration, and when it's more intense, it can raise dust or sand as well.
When to go
From the point of view of the temperatures, the best times
to visit Iraq are spring and autumn: in the north, below 1,000 metres, in cities like Mosul and Sulaymaniyah the best months are April and from mid-October to mid-November, while in the centre and south (see Baghdad, Basra), they are March and November: this way you avoid both the scorching summer and the possible cold in winter. Sometimes, however, in these periods it can rain, especially in the north. In May and October the temperatures are already well above 30 °C, and can already approach 40 °C, but on the other hand it almost never rains.
What to pack
: in the north and north-west (Mosul, Nineveh, Rutbah): warm clothes, jacket, hat, raincoat or umbrella, scarf; in the mountains of Kurdistan, mountain and snow outfit, warm boots; in the centre and south (Baghdad, Basra), spring/autumn clothes, a jacket and a sweater, hat for cold nights.
: in the whole country at low altitude, from north to south: lightweight, loose fitting, light-coloured clothing, light and long shirt and pants of natural fibres (cotton, linen), sun hat, desert turban; in the north and north-west (Mosul, Nineveh, Rutbah), you can bring a light sweatshirt for the night and early morning. In the mountains of Kurdistan, light clothes for the day, sun hat or desert turban, sweatshirt or sweater for the evening, a jacket for the highest peaks; hiking shoes.