Southeast Asia is a tropical sub-regions of Asia covering an area of approximately 1.6 million square miles. It comprises of countries and territories that are located south of Korea, Japan, and China, north of Australia, to the east of India, and to the west of Papua New Guinea. The region is bordered by East Asia, South Asia, the Pacific Ocean, the Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean, and Oceania. It is the only region of the continent of Asia that is located both in the Southern Hemisphere and partly within the Northern Hemisphere. The region is comprised of islands and the mainland and includes eleven countries. All the eleven countries except East Timor are members of the Association of South East Asian Nations. Southeast Asia has a population of approximately 640 million people or 8.5% of the total world’s population, making it the world’s 3rd most populous region after South and East Asia.
Geography of Southeast Asia
It straddles the Equator between the Tropic of Cancer and halfway the Tropic of Capricorn, with the Equator passing through only Indonesia. Southeast Asia consist of two geographic regions; the mainland (Indochina) which consist of Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, West Malaysia, Thailand, and part of East India. The other geographic region is the maritime region which comprises East Timor, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, East Malaysia, Cocos Island, and Christmas Island. Indonesia is the largest country in the region and also the largest archipelago in the world.
The climate of Southeast Asia can be described as tropical, meaning that the weather tends to be the hot and humid most part of the year. The Myanmar Himalayas and Northern Vietnam are the only places in Southeast Asia that experience sub-tropical climate. Other parts of the region also fall out of this climate since they are mainly deserts. The region receives plenty of rain throughout the year, especially during the wet monsoon season due to the effects of tropical rain belt and the seasonal shifting of wind. The tropical belt is responsible for additional rainfall during the monsoon season. Apart from the location, the climate of the region is also influenced by distance from the water bodies such as oceans or seas, prevailing winds, movement of upper air system such as a hurricane, and ocean current. Seasonal changes in weather differ, and night and day temperatures can vary greatly at different times of the year. However, in the tropics, the cold never last for long, even during the rainy season.
General Characteristics of Tropical Climate
A tropical climate is a non-arid type of climate in which all the months of the year have a mean temperature of warmer than 18°C, with the temperatures remaining almost constant throughout the year. The climate is characterized by two seasons; wet and dry seasons. The regions under this climate are frost-free and experience little changes in the solar angles. The tropical climate is sub-divided into three distinct varieties based on the amount and patterns of precipitation. Tropical rainforest climate has heavy precipitation throughout the year and has no distinct dry season. This type of tropical climate receives an average of at least 2.4 inches of precipitation. The tropical monsoon climate is a type of tropical climate that results from the monsoon winds and has a short, distinct dry season. The wind changes direction according to the season and the driest month receives less than 2.4 inches of precipitation. The third type is the tropical wet and dry climate or tropical savanna climate which has pronounced dry season. The dry season can go for months and can be very severe.
The Climate of Some Southeast Asian Countries
Thailand is located at the center of the Indochinese Peninsula and covers an area of approximately 198,120 square miles. The country’s climate is influenced by the monsoon winds, with the monsoon season running from June to October. However, the rains can begin earlier and last longer than October. The country is divided into three seasons. The first is the southwest monsoon season that runs from May to October and is characterized by a lot of rain, especially in August and September. The second season is the northeast monsoon or winter which occurs between October and February and is characterized by mild temperature. The third season is the pre-monsoon season which runs from February to May and characterized by warm weather.
Laos is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia situated in the Indochinese Peninsula. It experiences two types of climate and widely different weather patterns across its various regions. Although the country experience largely tropical savanna climate, parts of the southern region experience sub-equatorial climate. Tropical monsoon also occurs in certain areas. Laos experiences three main seasons; hot and humid, dry and hot, and cool and dry during the region’s monsoon season.
Indonesia is the largest country in Southeast Asia and also the largest archipelago in the world. The Indonesian archipelago is a large geological feature that can greatly influence the country’s weather. It is also the only country in the region that is crossed by the equator. Thus, its climate tends to be even throughout the year. The country has two distinct seasons; dry and wet seasons, with no extreme winter or summer. The dry season runs from April to October and the wet season is from November to March. The climate is dominated by tropical rainforest climate that is common on all the islands and tropical monsoon climate that is common along Java’s coastal north. Tropical savanna climate can also be found in locations such as East Java and Central Java. Apart from the tropical climate, cooler climates such as oceanic climate can be found in highland areas.
Singapore is located approximately 85 miles from the equator, on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. The country experiences relatively constant weather throughout the year. The climate found in the country is tropical rainforest with no distinct season. Temperatures and pressure are relatively uniform while humidity is high and rainfall is in abundant. Wetter monsoon season is experienced between November and January. Bushfires in Singapore cause a lot of haze in the area around July to October.