South Africa generally has a temperate climate, partly due to the fact that it is surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, that it is in the southern hemisphere, which has a milder climate, and that the average altitude increases steadily northwards (towards the equator) and further inland. Due to this different topography and oceanic influence, there are a variety of climates. The climate varies considerably from extreme desert in the South of Namib, in the far North-West, to a lush sub-tropical climate on the East, alongside the border area between Mozambique and the Indian Ocean. Winters in South Africa usually last from June to August.
The extreme southwest of the country has a climate very similar to the Mediterranean, with wet winters and hot, dry summers. Much of South Africa’s wine is produced in this region. The region is also particularly known for its wind, which blows irregularly for most of the year. The severity of this wind has made the passage of the Cape of Good Hope particularly dangerous for sailors, causing many shipwrecks. Further east, on the south coast, rainfall is more evenly distributed over the year, creating a green landscape.
The Free State is particularly flat because it lies in the middle of the plateau. North of the river Vaal, the Highveld is more irrigated and does not experience subtropical temperature extremes. Johannesburg, which is located in the Central Highveld, lies 1,740 m above sea level and records an annual rainfall of 760 mm. Winters in the region can be cold, but snow is rare.
In winter, the high mountains of the Drakensberg, which make up the south-eastern side of the Highveld, offer limited skiing opportunities. On the South African continent, the Sutherland is the coldest place in the western mountains of the Roggeveld, an area where winter temperatures can reach -15°C. The Prince Edward Islands have cooler average annual temperatures, but Sutherland has the coldest extremes. South Africa’s deep interior is the warmest, having a temperature of 51.7°C (51.7°F) recorded at Cape Calahari North near Upington in 1948. However, this temperature is unofficial and has not been measured with standard equipment. The officially recorded temperature at Vioolsdrif was 48.8°C (48.8°F) in January 1993.