What is the Weather on Kilimanjaro?
The short answer is that the temperatures on Mount Kilimanjaro range from hot to bitter cold. The journey from the gate to the peak is like traveling from the equator to Antarctica in a matter of days. This is because the routes to the Uhuru peak cross different ecological zones. Mount Kilimanjaro has five major ecological zones, each approximately 3,280 feet (1,000 m) in altitude. Each zone is subject to a corresponding decrease in rainfall, temperature and life as the altitude increases.
As an example of average local seasons, for the nearby city of Moshi, January and February are the warmest months, April and May are the wettest months, June and July are the coolest months, and August and September are the driest months. These generalities about the weather in Moshi hold true for Mount Kilimanjaro as well.
Due to its proximity to the equator, Mount Kilimanjaro doesn’t experience wide temperature ranges from season to season. Instead, the temperatures are determined more so by the altitude and time of day. At the beginning of the climb, at the base of the mountain, the average temperature is around 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 27 degrees Celsius). From there, the temperatures will decrease as you move through Mount Kilimanjaro’s ecological zones.
At the summit, Uhuru Point, the night time temperatures can range between 20 and -20 degrees Fahrenheit (-7 to -29 degrees Celsius). Due to Mount Kilimanjaro’s great height, the mountain creates its own weather. It is extremely variable and impossible to predict. Therefore, regardless of when you climb, you should always be prepared for wet days and cold nights.
Below are the five zones from the lowest to the highest altitude along with the average annual precipitation and zone characteristics.
Altitude: 2,600 to 6,000 ft (800 to 1,800 m)
Precipitation: 20 to 70 in (500 to 1,800 mm)
Cultivated land, grasslands and populated human settlements characterize this zone.
Altitude: 6,000 to 9,200 ft (1,8000 to 2,800 m)
Precipitation: 79 to 40 in (2,000 to 1,000 mm)
The forest receives 6 feet of rain annually, supporting a variety of plants and wildlife while clear nights can produce low temperatures.
Altitude: 9,200 to 13,200 ft (2,800 to 4,000 m)
Precipitation: 51 to 21 in (1,300 to 530 mm)
This semi-alpine zone is characterized by heath-like vegetation and abundant wild flowers. The unique Senecio trees are abundant here.
Altitude: 13,200 to 16,500 ft (4,000 to 5,000 m)
Precipitation: 10 in (250 mm)
The alpine desert receives little water and correspondingly light vegetation exists here. The temperature can vary from over 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the day to below freezing at night.
Altitude: 16,50o+ ft (5,000+ m)
Precipitation: <4 in (100 mm)
Characterized by ice and rock, there is virtually no plant or animal life at this altitude. Nights are extremely cold and the day’s unbuffered sun is powerful. The oxygen level is half that of sea level.