|Southern Serengeti is dry whilst the north is already green: Mwiba August 2011|
Why do I think that the weather (or more generally, the climate) is something worth talking about (apart from because I'm British, of course)? Well, firstly it makes a huge difference to the ecology of the system - we've already talked a lot about how water availability make a huge difference, and most (though not all) of that is due to differences in rainfall. So understanding the seasons will help make sense of what's happening throughout East Africa. But also because the climate in East Africa is completely different to the climate where most of your clients come from - visitors from the north are mostly used to four seasons of different length and severity depending on quite where they live. There's winter, from about Dec - Feb, when it's cold wet (or snowy), the days are short (seriously, before I moved out here we lived in Aberdeen and in the December the sun would rise at 8.45 and set at 3.30pm) and trees loose their leaves and wildlife finds it tough. Then there's spring, March - May, when the days start to lengthen, the temperature warms up, rainfall declines somewhat, the trees grow leaves and there's a flush of invertebrate life. Summer arrives June - August, with long days (Aberdeen sunrise at 4am, set after 10pm) and madly busy breeding season for wildlife, with lower rainfall (and very little in more southern areas). Then the days start shortening, the temperature falls and September - November is Autumn (or Fall if you're not in UK), the leaves start to fall, rains pick up and the migrants all head south.
|Wildebeest enjoy the green in northern Serengeti, September 2011|
|Wildebeest endure the dry, Tarangire September 2011|
|Total rainfall (from here), but seasonality might be more important|
Now, not only is it good to be able to chat about these seasonal differences with clients, (especially at this time of year when they might well go from somewhere dry like Tarangire straight to somewhere in wet and green in northern Serenegti) but it's impact is massive. Why do you think the Wildebeest are up in Northern Serengeti and the Mara at this time of year? That dry season rainfall is critical for providing good grazing for such large numbers of animals. In fact, the Serengeti ecosystem is a great place to explore the impacts of climate on the savanna, because it has such different seasons across relatively small areas - dry season rainfall in the north is actually equivalent to total annual rainfall in the south, where the crater highlands catch most of the rain coming from the coast, but I think I'll leave a more detailed analysis of Serengeti's climates for another post, as this is long enough already.
|Now might be a good time to talk weather! Grumeti GR, July 2009|
Last thing though - it's worth thinking about how you might actually impart this sort of knowledge to clients in an interesting and relevant way. It might, of course, come up easily enough if their ask you directly (and of course, if their British, they're bound to...). But otherwise it might be something to chat about when you're watching a big thunderstorm brewing on the horizon, or when your are about to take clients from a dry place to a wet one (putting them on the plane to go from Tarangire to northern Serengeti at the moment would be a good time!) or vice versa. Or even, of course, as you watch the migration unfolding in Serengeti, just to explain some of the processes involved in why they're even bothering to make these dangerous trips!