The country’s Mediterranean climate is similar to that of southern California, with lush forests in the mountain ranges of northern and central California giving way to drier conditions and deserts further inland in the southeast. The Moroccan coastal plains have remarkably moderate temperatures even in summer, due to the influence of the cold Canary Current off the Atlantic coast.
There are several different types of climate in the Rif, Middle and High Atlas: Mediterranean climate in the coastal plains, changing to a humid temperate climate at high altitudes, where the climate has enough moisture to support the development of various types of oaks, moss carpets, junipers and the Atlantic fir, a royal and endemic coniferous tree in Morocco. In the valleys, the fertile soils and heavy rainfall allow the growth of dense and lush forests. Cloud forests are found west of the Rif and Middle Atlas Mountains. At high altitudes, the climate takes on an alpine character and can accommodate ski resorts.
In the south-east part of the Atlas Mountains, close to the Algerian border, climate is very dry, where summers can be long and very hot. High temperatures and very low humidity are especially noticeable in the plain regions to the east of the Atlas Mountains because of shadow rainfall effect from the mountain system. The southeastern part of Morocco is extremely hot, and its vast sand dunes and rocky plains, which include parts of the Sahara Desert, are interspersed with lush oases.
Contrary to the Saharan area in the south, the coastal lowlands in the northern and central parts of the country are very fertile and constitute the backbone of Morocco’s agriculture, in which 95% of the population lives. The direct location on the North Atlantic, the proximity to the European continent and the elongated mountains of the Rif and Atlas Mountains are the factors that explain the rather European climate of the northern half of the country. This is what makes Morocco a country of contrasts. Wooded areas cover about 12% of the country, while 18% is agricultural land. About 5% of Morocco’s land is irrigated for agricultural purposes.
In general, Morocco’s climate and geography are fairly similar to those of the Iberian Peninsula, except for the south-eastern regions (pre-Saharan and desert areas). Thus, we have the following climatic zones :
– Mediterranean: Predominant along the country’s coastal Mediterranean areas, alongside the (500 km long) strip, as well as some areas of the Atlantic coast. Generally, the summers are warm to moderately warm and dry, with daily maximum temperatures averaging between 29 °C (84.2 °F) and 32 °C (89.6 °F). Winters are generally mild and humid, with daily average temperatures ranging from 9 °C to 11 °C, and average lows ranging from 5 °C to 8 °C, typical of coastal areas of the western Mediterranean. Annual rainfall in the area varies between 600-800 mm in the west and 350-500 mm in the east. Notable cities that fall within this zone are: Tangier, Tetouan, Al Hoceima, Nador and Safi.
– Sub-Mediterranean: It influences cities that have Mediterranean characteristics but are also influenced by other climatic zones due to their relative altitude or direct exposure to the North Atlantic. So we have two main climates of influence:
– Oceanic: Determined by the cooler summers where highs rarely rise above 27 °C and are almost always around 21 °C in relation to the Essaouira region. Average daytime temperatures can reach as low as 19 °C (66.2 °F). Whereas winters are cool to mild and humid. Rainfall varies on average between 400 and 700 mm annually.. Notable cities that fall within this zone: Rabat, Casablanca, Kénitra, Salé and Essaouira.
– Continental The mountainous regions in the north and centre of the country dominate, where summers are hot to very hot, with highs of between 32 °C and 36 °C. Winters, on the other hand, are cold, with lows usually above freezing. And when cold humid air from the northwest enters Morocco, temperatures can easily exceed -10 °C (14.0 °F) for a few days. Snowfall is frequent and plentiful in this part of the country. Rainfall varies between 400 and 800 mm. Noteworthy cities: Azilal, Imilchil, Khenifra and Midelt.
– Alpine: This type of climate is found in some parts of the Middle Atlas Mountains and in the eastern part of the High Atlas Mountains. Generally, summers can be very hot to relatively hot, while winters tend to be longer, cold and snowy. Rainfall varies between 400 and 1200 mm. In summer, highs rarely rise above 30 °C, and lows are cool and go well above 15 °C. In winter, highs rarely rise above 8 °C and lows are well below freezing. There are many ski resorts in this part of the country, such as Oukaimeden and Mischliefen. Notable towns: Ifrane, Azrou and Boulmane.
– Semi-arid: This type of climate is found in the south of the country and in some parts of the east of the country, where rainfall is lower and annual precipitation ranges between 200 and 350 mm. However, it is worth noting that in these regions we usually find Mediterranean characteristics, such as the rainfall pattern and thermal features. Notable cities: Agadir, Marrakech and Oujda.
To the south of Agadir and to the east under Jerada, near the Algerian border, the dry, desert climate is beginning to prevail.
As a result of Morocco’s closeness to the Sahara desert as well as to the North Sea of the Atlantic Ocean, there are two phenomena occurring that are affecting regional seasonal conditions: An increase in temperature of 7-8 degrees Celsius when the sirocco blows from the east and causes heat waves, or a decrease in temperature of 7-8 degrees Celsius when cold and humid air blows from the northwest and causes a cold wave or cold snap. However, these phenomena do not last more than 2-5 days on average.
Other countries or regions with the same climatic conditions as Morocco are California (USA), Portugal, Spain and Algeria.
Annual rainfall in Morocco varies from region to region. The northwestern regions of the country receive between 500 mm and 1200 mm. North-eastern areas usually The central north of Morocco receives between 700 mm and up to 3500 mm. The region from Casablanca to Essaouira on the Atlantic coast is receiving between 300 mm up to 500 mm of rainfall. The areas from Essaouira to Agadir are receiving between 250 mm and 400 mm of rainfall. The region of Marrakech, in the centre-south, receives only 250 mm per year. The south-eastern regions, essentially the driest areas, receive only between 100 mm and 200 mm and are essentially dry and desert land.
Botanically, Morocco has a wide variety of vegetation, ranging from large and lush coniferous and oak forests typical of the western Mediterranean countries (Morocco, Algeria, Italy, Spain, France and Portugal) to shrubs and acacias further south. This is due to the diversity of climate and rainfall in the country.
Morocco’s climate is one of the purest in terms of the 4 seasons. Most regions have distinct seasons, with summer generally not being spoiled by rain and winter being wet, snowy and wet with mild, cool to cold temperatures. Spring and autumn are characterised by warm to mild weather, with flowering in spring and leaf fall in autumn. This kind of climate has affected the culture and the behaviour of the Moroccans people and plays an important role over the social interaction of the people, as many countries belonging to this type of climate zone.