Major Climates in Africa & the Middle East

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  • 0:00 Similarities of Climate
  • 0:35 Desert Climate
  • 1:30 Semi-Arid Climate
  • 2:30 Mediterranean Climate
  • 3:20 Tropical and Subtropical
  • 4:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

When you think of the climate of the Middle East, you probably think of deserts. With Africa, you think of deserts, the savanna, and jungles. However, as this lesson shows, there are surprising similarities between the two.

Similarities of Climate

At first glance, you might not expect for the Middle East and Africa to have many of the same climates. After all, much of the Middle East and parts of Africa are very arid, meaning that very little rain falls there, while some parts of Africa have more than a hundred inches of rain a year! That said, when you actually look at the geography of each place, almost every climate present in one region is present in the other. Sometimes the amount of a particular climate present is much smaller, but Africa and the Middle East share much more than just being hot.

Desert Climate

Of course, the dominant climate of much of the Middle East and almost all of Northern Africa, is that of a desert climate. Here, less than 200 millimeters of rain, or about eight inches, falls a year across some of the world's biggest deserts: the Sahara and Kalahari deserts of Africa and the Syrian and Arabian deserts of the Middle East. As you can imagine, these are very dry places with very small amounts of human settlement. However, people do live here, although they are almost always involved in one of three economic activities: some people are merchants, crossing the deserts to trade much like people have done for centuries. Still others are herders, taking their flocks of camels from oasis to oasis. Finally, some are hunter-gatherers, especially in the Kalahari in southern Africa. They live like the very first humans did, hunting animals and insects and eating what vegetation they can find.

Semi-Arid Climate

The second largest climate zone in the Middle East and one of the largest in Africa, is the semi-arid climate. These areas receive more rain than deserts, but not enough for anything other than a few short grasses and shrubs to grow. In fact, the precipitation range for a semi-arid region is between eight and 20 inches of rain a year.

In Africa, much of the area around the Kalahari Desert is technically semi-arid. However, a much larger band of semi-arid territory exists immediately south of the Sahara. Known as the Sahel, it stretches across the continent just under the Sahara and is between 50 and 250 miles wide. In the Middle East, semi-arid areas make up much of Turkey and Iran, as well as areas around the Jordan River in Israel, Palestine, and Jordan. Don't let the little bit of extra rain fool you; it is still very hot there, but at least there is some hope of rain. Here, the number of merchants and herders grows substantially.

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