Vol 3 Mammals of Africa ... Introduction ... The African climate
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Introduction

The African climate

Northern parts of Africa get more rain in our winter months, and southern parts get more rain during our summer months. This section shows why this is true.
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The African savanna varies in temperature between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year. The major difference between the seasons is not an extreme variation in temperature, but rather an extreme variation in rainfall. At Harare in Zimbabwe for example, more than 4 inches of rain a month can fall in the southern hemisphere's wintertime, between May and October. In the summer months of December and January, no rain may fall at all.

Although the hot summer of the savanna is dry and kills off most of the vegetation, plant life can survive underground and this favors the annual growth of grasses, with a few hardy trees surviving though the summer. The presence of vast grasslands in turn allowed the evolution of the grazing mammals. Savanna animals have to become adept at searching for water during the dry season.

The rainforests have a much more stable climate. Here, temperatures may vary only by a few degrees throughout the year, from perhaps 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Rainfall is also constant in the rainforests - 10 inches or more of rain may fall each month. Rainforest mammals do not have to cope with temperature or rainfall changes, and this is a major reason that such a wide diversity of animals and plants are found in the rainforests of the world.

Scrub vegetation consists of hardy plants that can exist with little rainfall. The dry season occurs in summer, and the wet season is experienced in the winter months. The main difference between scrub and savanna is the amount of rain that falls. Scrub areas do not experience enough rainfall to allow grasses to flourish. The scrub vegetation has to endure the harsh drought of the hot summer months, and to risk winters when little rain may fall. Scrub vegetation is tough and fibrous, and is less digestible as a food stuff.

Deserts present more of a problem for mammals. Here, summer rainfall is rare and less than 10 inches of rain fall over the winter months. In some years there may be no rain at all. The low rainfall together with the scorching heat of summer means that desert mammals are highly adapted to conserve and to seek out precious water supplies. Scrub areas often provide a transitional zone between desert and savanna.