여estern Sahara – known during the colonial era as ‘Spanish Sahara’ – is a disputed territory on the western edge of the Maghreb in north-west Africa, mostly controlled by Morocco to the north. As its name suggests, the land (covering an area just larger than the UK) is dominated by low-lying desert, with a climate to match.
Much of the territory is among the driest places on the planet: hot and sunny all year round, with average daily maxima in the high 30s C, and in the summer months of July and August peaking in the mid-40s.
At night, as in many desert areas, the temperature can fall dramatically because of the lack of cloud cover and the heat radiating rapidly from the sand. Night-time temperatures are usually in the low 20s, but in the mountains of the north can very occasionally drop as low as freezing point.
Wind is a prominent climatic feature, often whipping up the loose sand to create sandstorms. Rain is scarce and seasonal, occurring in winter in the northern part of the region and in late summer in the south, occasionally leading to flash floods.
Perhaps the most unusual thing about western Sahara’s climate is that coastal regions enjoy much more equable, spring-like conditions all year round, with frequent fog and heavy early morning dew, because of a cool offshore ocean current and north-easterly trade winds.