Areas, seasons and tourist climate

This article is meant to be kind of ‘101 reader’ towards the more technical information available. See for that e.g. the link to the meteorological traveller story at the bottom. Do note that whilst not even the real meteorologists can give a detailed long-term forecast, a more popularly written and condensed story like this can claim even less accuracy! But hopefully it’s a help in planning holidays.

Tourist regions

There are six main regions currently popular with tourists, and each has a more or less consistent climatological pattern; however with at times internal variations which are mentioned. They are described here with the temperature pattern, as this is not linked to the ‘monsoon seasons’ but only sometimes to the solar calendar. And also add a bit about humidity, though this is partly linked to the monsoon seasons.

Southwestern coast
From Mannar-Kalpitiya up north to Galle in the south. Temperature year-round between 27’ at night and 32’ daytime, with March-April being hottest and November-December coolest. High humidity except for the more dry far northern part of it (Puttalam-Kalpitiya).

South coast
Between Galle and Yala, and including the lowland plains (e.g. Udu Walawe park). Temperature year-round between 27’ at night and 32’ daytime, inland a few degrees hotter. Humidity and rainfall varies quite a bit – the western half is more under Southwest monsoon influence, whilst Tangalle-Hambantota-Yala area is amongst the most dry zones of the country but if it rains it’s from Northeast monsoon.

(North) East coast
From Jaffna in the far north through Trinco-Passekudah-Batticaloa-Arugam Bay to Yala. Temperature year-round between 27’ at night and 32’ daytime, with July-August being hottest and November-January coolest. High humidity except for the more dry far southern part of it (Pottuvil – Kumana – Yala).

Hill Country
Roughly the area south of  Kandy / Hatton / Nuwara Eliya upto the southern hill ridge Haputale-Ella-Badulla. Temperature and humidity fluctuate both with altitude and solar season; though Sri Lanka has a  tropical climate the ‘cold tropics’ have some kind of normal colder country spring-summer-fall pattern with associated vegetation. Temperatures in e.g. Ella and Nawalapitiya-Hatton, around 1000 m altitude, can be 15-25’ nighttime-daytime in summer and 10-20’ same in winter. In Nuwara Eliya district, upto 2000 m altitude, it can be 10-20‘ in summer and 3’-15’ in winter with even the odd frosty night.

Kandy area
Including the Matale-Knuckles mountaineous area. Temperature fluctuates with solar season. Temperatures can be 17-25’ nighttime-daytime in summer and 10-20’ same in winter.

Cultural Triangle
Defined here as roughly the area between Anuradhapura, Dambulla and Pollonaruwa; a huge lowland plain with the odd mountain popping up and a small mountain ridge from Matale-Dambulla northwards. Temperature year-round between 30’ at night and 35’ daytime. Humidity is high, rainfall varies quite a bit – the western half is more under Southwest monsoon influence, whilst Habarana and surroundings are more under Northeast monsoon influence.

Seasons

‘Popular speak’, and impacting the weather for tourists, there are four seasons plus two gray areas following the main monsoons. Monsoon is a wind pattern, deciding the waves/currents at sea and uptil some extent the rains on the land.

  • Northeast monsoon, mid December-February, meaning bad weather on East coast and good dry weather in Southwest.
  • First intermonsoon, popularly defined as June and first half of July. Meteorogy defines it a bit differently. 
  • Southwest monsoon, second half of July through September. Good weather on East coast; on Southwest it’s still nice sunny mornings, but cloud build-up at some point in the afternoon followed by brief heavy showers. Southwestern sea has heavy currents and waves.
  • Second intermonsoon, generally from late October until mid December.

Both intermonsoons have a similar pattern, on all coasts: quite unpredictable and mixed weather. Generally one experiences (blocks of) three types of days: nice sunny mornings with later clouds (Southwest monsoon like), all-cloudy days with intermittent showers and three-seasons-in-one-day: sun, clouds, brief shower, sun again and so on. However during First intermonsoon there is hardly impact on the East coast, April-October there generally is quite good weather.

The gray areas March-May and early October ‘have something of each adjacent season’ – they could be stable and sunny on the Southwest coast and could have unsettled times. In Colombo region April-May is the hottest and most humid time of the year.

In this description of the seasons mainly the coastal areas are mentioned. This is because Hill country, Kandy area and Cultural triangle have no consistent influence from them – and the first two also have a considerable solar calendar impact. Generally the eastern half of these inland areas shows more influence from the Northeast monsoon; e.g. Badulla and Eliya are infamous for flooding and landslides in December-January. But Sinharaja, the southwestern tip from the mountain massive, catches lots of rain in afternoons in all seasons except Northeast monsoon. Also Adam’s Peak (Siri Pada) is not for nothing mainly open from Northeast monsoon until close to the first intermonsoon, in the other seasons it can be too rainy there making the paths quite risky. But e.g. Knuckles and Ella are worst during that same Northeast monsoon. And Kandy and Eliya are known for quite mixed weather in both intermonsoon seasons but also adjacent months: the days can be all sunny, but if clouds in the lowlands reach the mountains they can start bursting and then it can rain like cats and dogs for many hours.

The proof of the pudding, and a kind of summary of the article, is a mapping between seasons and tourist regions; with ‘climate’ (the more sunny the better for tourists) and where relevant information about the sea.

 

Season                           

Region

Northeast monsoon

Mid Dec-February

First intermonsoon

June - mid July

Southwest monsoon

Mid July-September

Second intermonsoon

Late Oct - mid Dec

Southwestern coast

Best season, good sea

Mixed

2nd best season, rough sea

Mixed

South coast

Best season, good sea except Eastern half

Mixed (mainly Western half)

2nd best season, rough sea

Mixed

East coast

Terrible weather

Quite good weather & sea

Best season, good sea

Mixed

Hill country

Mixed, depends on West-East

Mixed

Mixed, depends on West-East

Mixed

Kandy area

Mixed

Mixed

Mixed

Mixed

Cultural Triangle

Mixed

Mixed

Mixed

Mixed

 

As a conclusion, for further reference beyond the 101 level, the meteorological traveller story promised.

 http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g29...