Nepal is a landlocked country in South Asia situated mainly in the Himalayas and extends into the Indo-Gangetic Plain. It covers an area of approximately 56,827 miles, making it the world's 93rd largest country, and has a population of about 26 million people. Nepal is bordered by India to the north, west, and east, China to the south. Bangladesh sits about 17 miles from its southeastern tip separated by India. It is also separated from Bhutan by the Indian state of Sikkim. The country’s capital and largest city is Kathmandu, with a population of over one million people and located in the Kathmandu Valley of Central Nepal. The climate of Nepal significantly varies with altitude above sea-level.
Geography of Nepal
Nepal has diverse geography comprising of subalpine forested hills, fertile plains, and many of the tallest mountains in the world including Mount Everest. The country is divided into three physiographic areas including Terai, Pahad, and Himal. The Terai region borders India and is part of the Indo-Gangetic. It is a lowland region consisting of hill ranges. This region experiences a subtropical and tropical climate. Pahad is the mountainous region that does not contain snow with the mountains varying from 2,600 to 13,100 feet. The southern limit of this region is the Lower Himalayan Range which reaches approximately 4,900 to 9,800 feet. Himal is the mountainous region that contains snow and is located in the Great Himalayan Range. This region is mainly in northern Nepal and contains the highest elevation in the world including Mount Everest on its border with China.
Climate of Nepal
The climate of Nepal is influenced by its location in the subtropical latitude as well as elevation. It has five climatic zones which broadly corresponds to the latitude. Subtropical and tropical zones are located below 3,900 feet, the temperate zones between 3,900 and 7,900 feet, cold zones between 7,900 and 11,800 feet, subarctic zones between 11,800 and 14,400 feet, and the arctic zones above 14,400 feet. Apart from the five climatic zones, Nepal also experiences five seasons; spring, winter, autumn, monsoon, and summer. The Himalayan Massif that dominates the northern portion of the county plays a major role in altering the climate of Nepal.
The Terai Region
The Terai region is mainly the lowland region of Nepal and contains some hill ranges. It begins from the country’s border with India and includes the southernmost part of the Gangetic Plain. This region is located at an elevation below 3,900 feet above the sea level and experiences tropical and subtropical climate. Temperatures in the Terai region exceed 37 °C during the summer period while winter temperatures range from 7 to 23 °C. Moving inland away from the Bay of Bengal the climate becomes more of continental with a greater difference between winter and summer. In western Terai, the coldest months are about 3 °C cooler than in other areas.
The Hilly Region
The mountain region of Nepal is located south of Himal, beginning from Mahabharat Range to a crest between 5,000 and 9,000 feet above sea level. Although it is referred to as the mountain region, it does not contain snow. This region has a climate that is characterized by mild and pleasant weather throughout the year with temperatures in the summer ranging between 25 and 27 °C and 0 to 12 °C in winter. Despite the pleasant climate, the mountain region is nearly inhabited because of the steep slopes. Also known as Hilly, this region ends where the ridges begin to substantially rise out of the temperate climate zone and into subalpine zone above 10,000 feet.
The Himal Region
The Himal region begins from where the ridges begin to rise above 10,000 feet and into the subalpine and alpine zones. These regions mainly contain snow and are the coldest parts of Nepal throughout the year. This region has a profound effect on the climate of the entire country and that of the entire India subcontinent. During winter, the great Himalayan range prevents the cold air from Inner Asia from reaching Nepal, making winter in the country generally dry. However, the winter temperature in this region can plummet under subzero. There are up to 230 days of frost in the subalpine zone while in the alpine zone the frost cover is throughout most parts of the year
Seasons of Nepal
Although the year is broadly divided into wet and dry seasons, Nepal experiences five distinct seasons; spring, autumn, winter, monsoon, and summer.
The autumn season kicks in September and runs through to November. During this season, the weather is clear and the days are pretty warm but the nights are cold. In higher elevations such as the Himal region, it actually freezes. Temperatures average 16-23 °C in the capital Kathmandu. Autumn is the festive season in Nepal and the mountain views are also very clear. Mists and clouds are very rare.
Winter season starts in December and runs through to February. It is probably the coldest season in Nepal with temperatures reaching below 0 °C in the Himalayas. The days are mostly clear except on a few occasions. There is heavy snowfall on a higher elevation and sometimes at a lower elevation of 2,500 meters. The coldest months are January and February.
Spring begins in March and ends in May and is considered a season of fine weather. During this season, the mornings are generally clear and cool but thunderstorm and occasional rain may occur. The days are warm and the sky is mostly clear. It is a snow-free season even in the Himalayas. Most flowers bloom in the spring, making the landscape very beautiful.
Nepal mainly experiences the summer monsoon while winter monsoon rarely occurs. The summer monsoon begins in June with continuous rainfall for days and ends in September. The mornings are always cloudy and it may rain the whole day, especially in the months of July and August. Thunderstorms are common in this season. Precipitation decreases in a southeast to northwest direction. Post monsoon occurs from September to mid-October with precipitation decreasing significantly or stops to allow for the cool and dry climate. Winter monsoon may be experienced in December.