Although the country lies wholly within the tropics, its climate varies from tropical humid to alpine, depending on the elevation, topography, and the direction and intensity of prevailing winds. Seasonal variations are marked less by temperature than by rainfall. Most of the country has a distinct rainy season; the rainy period (May through November) is commonly referred to as winter and the remainder of the year as summer.
The country falls into four horizontal temperature zones based primarily on elevation. In the tropical zone--below 800 meters--temperatures are hot, with yearly averages ranging between 26° C and 28° C. The temperate zone ranges between 800 and 2,000 meters with averages from 12° C to 25° C; many of Venezuela's cities, including the capital, lie in this region. Colder conditions with temperatures from 9° C to 11° C are found in the cool zone between 2,000 and 3,000 meters. Pastureland and permanent snowfield with yearly averages below 8° C cover land above 3,000 in the high mountain areas known as the páramos.
Average yearly rainfall amounts in the lowlands and plains range from a semiarid 430 millimeters in the western part of the Caribbean coastal areas to around 1,000 millimeters in the Orinoco Delta. Rainfall in mountainous areas varies considerably; sheltered valleys receive little rain, but slopes exposed to the northeast trade winds experience heavy rainfall. Caracas averages 750 millimeters of precipitation annually, more than half of it falling from June through August.
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