Weather: Middle East

A crossroads of culture and faith for millennia, the Middle East is also a place where giant weather regimes rub shoulders. Cold high pressure centred in Siberia pushes its way into the region each winter, which can be a surprisingly chilly season in the heart of the Middle East. Some of Iran's mountains remain snow-capped year round. Wet winter storms from the Mediterranean help moisten the coastal strips and mountains of Lebanon and Israel; the storms then dry up across the great inland deserts of the Arabian peninsula. Some of these depressions become revitalized near the Persian Gulf, delivering quick shots of rain to the lower elevations and snow to the mountains. When a depression lingers, normally arid deserts and valleys may experience local flooding.

Clear skies and blazing heat rule most of the Middle East during the summer, although dust and haze often cut down on visibility. Only the southern corner of Arabia manages an occasional thunderstorm. Almost every location beneath the highest mountains reaches at least 30°C/86°F on a summer afternoon, and many spots soar well above 40°C/104°F. Perhaps the most notable regional differences in summer are in humidity. Interior deserts can feel as dry as the dust that coats them, while towns near the Red Sea and Persian Gulf can be incredibly humid. No wonder the coastal resorts are most popular in winter, when the humidity goes down and the heat is balmy rather than blistering.

Spring and autumn aren't considered true seasons in the Middle East. Like neighbouring Asia – whose monsoons help drive Middle Eastern climate – the region oscillates between summer and winter modes. The shifts between these take only two or three weeks to play out. Typically, the transitions occur in late spring and mid-autumn, but they may be a bit early or late in any given year, so the averages convey a more lengthy transition than actually tends to occur. April and May – sandwiched between the winter rains and summer heat – are good times to see the Mediterranean countries at their greenest.