Lebanon in History from the Earliest Times to the Present

By Philip K. Hitti | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III CLIMATE, PLANT AND ANIMAL LIFE

THE ruling feature of Lebanese climate is an alternation of a rainy season from mid-November to the end of March and a dry season covering the rest of the year. The two seasons are separated by two others of transitional character and short duration: spring and autumn. Rainfall increases through December, January and February and begins to abate in March. Throughout the dry season hardly any rain falls and clouds become numerous only after the flow of the Nile. This climatic division of the year into two clearly defined seasons characterizes in general the whole Mediterranean region and is due to its marginal location between two zones of sharply contrasted rainfalls: the dry trade wind or desert tract of Africa on the south and the westerly winds on the north. The westerlies are maritime winds often originating in the Atlantic and following a track over sea areas. They are the moisture- bearing waves of cool or cold air which normally reach the Mediterranean eastern board in the autumn, becoming the prevailing winds in winter. As they hit the Lebanon they rise. In rising the air expands and is forced to unload its cargo of moisture, becoming progressively drier as it advances to the continental hinterland. Lebanon thus takes the lion's share of the precipitation and what is left floats eastward to the Zagros and Elburz in Iran and al-Jabal al-Akhḍar (the green mount in 'Umān, Oman). In Lebanon itself the westward facing slopes, being the windward side, experience heavier precipitation than the eastward facing slopes, the leeward side. Lebanese masons take winds into account in house construction, reinforcing the south-western walls, since the south-westerlies as well as the westerlies are the rain-bearing winds.

Winds And rain

Along the coastline the average annual rainfall is 33 inches, higher than in parts of the British Isles1 and twice as much as the corresponding coast of southern California, with this

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1
W. B. Fisher, The Middle East ( London, 1950), p. 50.

-25-

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