Lesotho’s climate is generally classified as temperate with alpine characteristics. The country experiences hot summers and relatively very cold winters. Temperatures tend to be lower than in other countries at similar latitudes mainly due to the higher elevations. Four distinct seasons are recognized, with large fluctuations in temperature and very erratic rainfall. Its location exposes the country to the influences of both the Indian and the Atlantic Oceans, with wide differences in temperature. Annual precipitation is highly variable both temporally and spatially, ranging from 500 mm to 760 mm. Temperatures are highly variable on diurnal, monthly, and annual time scales, generally ranging between 10°C and 30°C. High winds of up to 20 meters per second can sometimes be received during summer thunderstorms.
Based on the latest climatology, 1991-2020, mean annual temperature for Lesotho is 12.8°C, with average monthly temperatures ranging between 15°C (November to March) and 6°C (June, July). Mean annual precipitation is 761.2 mm, with highest rainfall occurring October to April, with extremely low levels of precipitation occurring between May to September.
In Lesotho, high aridity and periods of intense drought exacerbate the loss of biological diversity, deterioration of rangelands and reduce crop and animal productivity via desertification, make the country increasingly vulnerable. The productivity of major crops and animals has declined significantly in recent years due to poor land and rangeland conditions. The high evaporation rate and the virtual absence of permanent surface water over large parts of the country combine to make water a scarce resource, with some projections indicating that even without climate change impacts, water resources will be reduced significantly. Primary challenges are centered around water resource availability, changing precipitation patterns and increasing population demands. Climatic and socio-economic environments in semi-arid areas in Lesotho make communities vulnerable to food insecurity and livelihoods and lead to unsustainable agroecological systems, crop failure and unproductive rangelands.
- Temperatures in Lesotho are variable year on year; however, an overall trend of temperature increase has been observed since the 1960s. Since 1960, Lesotho’s mean annual temperatures increased by 0.76°C, with an average rate of increase of 0.20°C per decade.
- Increases in both annual maximum and minimum temperatures between 1970 and 2005 with minimum temperatures warming more than the maximum temperatures and the most rapid warming occurring in the early 1980s have been observed.
- Rainfall trends are weak overall, observations indicate a decrease in annual precipitation for Lesotho.
- Changes in seasonal rainfall patterns has revealed progressive increases in winter season (June to August) precipitation accompanied by an opposite trend in the summer season, in some regions.
This section provides the options to visualize historical climate data for different timeframes via map and annual cycle chart.