The climate of Malaysia is driven by its equatorial position, extensive coastlines on tropical seas and monsoonal winds. Because Malaysia is situated between one and six degrees North latitude, Malaysia has an equatorial climate with uniformly high temperatures, high humidity, relatively light winds, and abundant rainfall throughout the year. The main causes of climatic variation within Malaysia are differences in altitude and the exposure of the coastal lowlands to the alternating southwest and northeast monsoon winds. The southwest monsoon winds blow from April to September and the northeast monsoon winds blow from November to February.
There are four seasons of monsoom winds; the longest in duration being the southwest monsoon and the northeast monsoon. Two shorter periods of inter-monsoon seasons. The southwest monsoon season usually begins in the of May or early June and ends in September and the prevailing wind flow is generally southwesterly and light, below 15 knots. The northeast monsoon season usually begins in early November and ends in March and steady easterly or northeasterly winds blowing 10 to 20 knots. During the two intermonsoon seasons, the winds are generally light and variable.
Because much of Malaysia is located near the coast, land and sea breezes can affect wind flow pattern. Sea breezes of 10 to 15 knots often develop on sunny afternoons, blowing tens of kilometers inland. On clear nights, weaker land breezes can also develop over the coastal areas.
Note: see Local and regional wind systems for a discussion of the causes of wind.
Precipitation is high in most parts of Malaysia. For example Kuala Lumpur reveives over 2400 mm per year, Penang over 2700 mm per year, Kuching in Sarawak over 3900 mm per year, and Labuan in Sabah over 3500 mm per year of precipitation.
Patterns of Precipitation
Patterns of precipitation are determined by seasonal wind flow patterns and local topographic features. The east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, western Sarawak and the northeast coast of Sabah experience heavy rain during the northeast monsoon.
In the states of the East Coast, November, December and January are the wettest months while June and July are the driest months. Most of the rest of the peninsula has peaks of high rainfall (October through November and April through May) followed by periods of lower rainfall (January through February and June through July). On avereage Kuala Lumpur receives 195 days and Penang receives 154 days of rain each year.
Sarawak and Sabah
Maximum rainfall in the coastal areas of Sarawak and northeast Sabah occur during January with minimal rainfall In the coastal Sarawak ocurring in June or July and in the northeast coastal Sabah in April. Two peaks of rainfall occur in he northwest coastal areas of Sabah (October and June). Rainfall is more evenly distributed throught the year in inland areas of Sarawak, southern Sabah, andf the central parts of Sabah. On average Kuching receives 255 days and Labuan receives 191 days of rain each year.
Malaysia receives sunlight throughout the year, although it is rare to have a full day with clear skies. On the average, Malaysia receives about 6 hours of sunshine per day with the sunniest regions, Alor Setar and Kota Bharu, receiving about 7 hours of sunshine per day while Kuching receives only five hours per day.
Malaysia has uniformly high temperatures throughout the year. In mst areas the average maximum and minimum temperature per moenth vary less than 2°C annually. Temperature can range daily between 5°C to 10°C near the coast and from 8° C to 12°C inland.. For example the monthly average maximum temperature ranges from 32- 33° C year iin Kuala Lumpur, 31- 33° C in Penang, 29- 33° C o Kuching, and 30- 32° C in Labuan. The montly average minimum temperature ranges from 22- 23° C year iin Kuala Lumpur, 23-24° C in Penang, 22=23° C in Kuching, and 24-24° C in Labuan
The relative humidity in Malaysia is high, ranging from 70 to 90%. Humidity varies more throughout the day than it does annually.
References and Further Reading
- General Climate of Malaysia, Malaysian Meteorological Department
- BBC Weatther Country Guide: Malaysia