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General Climate of Malaysia


The characteristic features of the climate of Malaysia are uniform temperature, high humidity and copious rainfall. Winds are generally light. Situated in the equatorial doldrum area, it is extremely rare to have a full day with completely clear sky even during periods of severe drought. On the other hand, it is also rare to have a stretch of a few days with completely no sunshine except during the northeast monsoon seasons.

Wind flow

Though the wind over the country is generally light and variable, there are, however, some uniform periodic changes in the wind flow patterns. Based on these changes, four seasons can be distinguished, namely, the southwest monsoon, northeast monsoon and two shorter periods of inter-monsoon seasons.

The southwest monsoon season is usually established in the later half of May or early June and ends in September. The prevailing wind flow is generally southwesterly and light, below 15 knots.

The northeast monsoon season usually commences in early November and ends in March. During this season, steady easterly or northeasterly winds of 10 to 20 knots prevail.The winds over the east coast states of Peninsular Malaysia may reach 30 knots or more during periods of strong surges of cold air from the north (cold surges).

During the two intermonsoon seasons, the winds are generally light and variable. During these seasons, the equatorial trough lies over Malaysia.

It is worth mentioning that during the months of April to November, when typhoons frequently develop over the west Pacific and move westwards across the Philippines, southwesterly winds over the northwest coast of Sabah and Sarawak region may strengthen to reach 20 knots or more.

As Malaysia is mainly a maritime country, the effect of land and sea breezes on the general wind flow pattern is very marked especially during days with clear skies. On bright sunny afternoons, sea breezes of 10 to 15 knots very often develop and reach up to several tens of kilometers inland. On clear nights, the reverse process takes place and land breezes of weaker strength can also develop over the coastal areas.

Rainfall Distribution

The seasonal wind flow patterns coupled with the local topographic features determine the rainfall distribution patterns over the country. During the northeast monsoon season, the exposed areas like the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, Western Sarawak and the northeast coast of Sabah experience heavy rain spells. On the other hand, inland areas or areas which are sheltered by mountain ranges are relatively free from its influence. It is best to describe the rainfall distribution of the country according to seasons.

Seasonal Rainfall Variation in Peninsular Malaysia

The seasonal variation of rainfall in Peninsular Malaysia is of three main types:

(a) Over the east coast states, November, December and January are the months with maximum rainfall, while June and July are the driest months in most districts.

(b) Over the rest of the Peninsula with the exception of the southwest coastal area, the monthly rainfall pattern shows two periods of maximum rainfall separated by two periods of minimum rainfall. The primary maximum generally occurs in October - November while the secondary maximum generally occurs in April - May. Over the northwestern region, the primary minimum occurs in January - February with the secondary minimum in June - July while elsewhere the primary minimum occurs in June - July with the secondary minimum in February.

(c) The rainfall pattern over the southwest coastal area is much affected by early morning " Sumatras" from May to August with the result that the double maxima and minima pattern is no longer distinguishable. October and November are the months with maximum rainfalls and February the month with the minimum rainfall. The March - April - May maximum and the June -July minimum rainfalls are absent or indistinct.

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