Your gateway to Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe's water & wildlife wonderland

The Weather

Kariba weather can basically be split into 3 seasons as follows:
April - August Winter months are mild & pleasant with average 25°C days & 15°C nights.
September - November Hot with average day temps +/- 35°C and little night time reduction, the hottest & driest time of the year but the best time for tiger fishing!
December - March Rainy season with tropical thunderstorms and average day time in the 30°C, can be a little humid.
Information by Rex Taylor
Lake Kariba has superimposed its own weather pattern on the climate of the Zambezi Valley. Adjacent to the Lakeshore on the Zambian side there has been a significant increase in rainfall, yet on the Southern, Zimbabwean side, there has been very little increase. The wind pattern is generally light and across the wider Eastern Basin a pronounced anabatic and katabatic lake wind overrides the prevailing geotropic wind. Over the rest of the Lake, the winds are generally light Easterly. At night, surface cooling seems to create a low level inversion that makes for early morning calm water.
However, the katabatic influence of the Zimbabwean plateau induces local winds that funnel down to the surface, stir up the water, then bounce up and over the inversion to join the circulation over the Lake. In places the water can be rough, but 10 km further away it is smooth. This overnight wind off the Matusadona hills creates "standing waves" about 1000 ft. above the surface, clearly marked by a series of low lenticular clouds extending from the hills towards the Lake!
There are only three "seasons" on Lake Kariba, "WET", "COOL" and "HOT". The "Wet Season" starts in late November or in December with intense thunderstorms. In January and February, the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone drifts down from Zambia and the whole of the Zambezi Valley can expect continuous heavy rain, overcast skies and thunderstorms, interspersed with lovely clear mornings. In March, the ITCZ moves North again, usually wetting Kariba on its way! The tropical cloud mass sometimes sticks out a Southerly "tongue" of moist weather down the Western edge of Zimbabwe and Zambia, often initiating floods at the upstream end of the Lake.
The second season is the Valley's cool "winter" months of April to September. Temperatures fall to about 10° Centigrade, although some sheltered areas will record temperatures down to zero! Generally, though, night-time figures will be about 15°C and rising to 25°C during the day. Days and nights are clear and the surface wind generally light and predictable. Cold fronts sweeping around the South African Coast blow in cooler moist air into Zimbabwe and sometimes as far as Kariba. During the latter part of Kariba's "winter", unpredictable and vicious South Westerly winds can wreak havoc among shore-based installations and vessels on the Lake! Fortunately these are rare, although memorable for those who have survived a so-called "Kariba Westerly"!
The third season creeps up on Kariba with the days getting progressively warmer and longer. Invariably two wedges of moist and cold air from an Atlantic cold front will sweep in during the first and second week of September, sometimes wetting the Lake, but usually just forcing Kariba residents to unpack the warm blankets they'd only just put away! October is hot and dry. Often moist air at upper and medium levels provokes violent thunderstorm activity, but the lower levels are so dry that the falling raindrops evaporate, leaving a column of cold air to descend at high speed, spread out when it hits the surface and smash into boats moored carelessly in its path. Day temperatures build up to 40°C dropping to 30°C at night.
In November the chance of rain improves and the trees push out their new buds to lie in wait for the first rains. Humidity climbs and the night brings welcome relief from the burning sun. The onset of the rainy season is eagerly awaited. Whenever an unstable humid air mass is over Kariba, which is between October and April, "water-spouts" can be expected. These form in exactly the same way as Pacific "tornados" or American "twisters', but although terrifying they are very minute versions of the same phenomenon. A "Kariba water-spout" loses its energy within a few hundred metres of hitting the shoreline.

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