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The East African Monsoon Winds

on Tuesday, 19 October 2010. Posted in Climate

Article 1/3: A brief overview of the winds influencing the Kenya Coast

The East African Monsoon Winds

The equatorial Kenya Coast has a rich and ancient history, thanks in no small part to the magnificent Indian Ocean, with its consistent and relatively predictable monsoon 'tradewinds' that have been an integral part of coastal life for the peoples of this region for many centuries. The pattern of these winds has been understood and harnessed by mariners, traders and explorers from as far off as Arabia, India and China. The word monsoon is said to originate from the Arabic name for these winds - 'muusum'.

The regular pattern of the monsoon winds in the Indian Ocean allowed for traders to plan their trade routes south and north along the East African coast:

  • Kaskazi (north-easterly) December to mid-March
    This wind took traders south along the coast, blowing from the northeast to the southwest for approximately 4 months.
  • Transitional period mid to end March
    A short period of change between Kaskazi and Kusi
  • Kusi (southerly) April to mid-September
    This wind allowed traders to head up north along the coast. A mainly southerly wind blowing for approximately 6 months.
  • Matalai (transitional period) mid-September to mid-November 
    the change of wind from Kusi to Kaskazi - a period of rains and little wind.

The following article gives an overview of why these winds occur, and describe some of their characteristics that may be of use or interest to those who live on the coast or are visitors to the region.

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