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Unlike much of South Africa with its very mild climate, the Drakensberg region has four distinct seasons:

  • summers are warm and experience fearsome thunderstorms, and possibly snow
  • autumns are cool and are characterised by lots of low cloud and heavy mist above - and probably some snow
  • winters are cold, windy, dry, and you can expect snow - and gales
  • springs experience all of the above

An important factor determining the weather is synoptic conditions (the relative positions of high- and low-pressure cells across the sub-continent) and the winds they produce. During summer there is usually a low-pressure system over the interior with a high-pressure cell over the Indian Ocean. Wind tends to flow from high to low pressure, in this case bringing with it lots of rain from the moisture picked up over the warm sea. As this moist air reaches the Drakensberg it rises, cools and condenses to form dramatic storm clouds in theafternoon.

During winter this pattern is reversed: there is a high-pressure system over the interior, while low-pressure cells (cold fronts, or temperate cyclones) move across the country from the south-west. Temperate cyclones are masses of warm and cold air which revolve around one another, and one can actually see the cold front and the warm one. The cold front is usually heralded by a hot berg wind, as well as very high, streaky cirrus clouds (those 'horses' tails'), and then progressively lower and thicker ones. When the low, dark ones (nimbo stratus) arrive, so does the cold front which can bring rain, hail, sleet or snow, or any combination.

An anomaly of winter in KZN is the occurrence of high temperatures which prevail when strong westerly winds course over the escarpment, warming up as they descend and sweep to the coast. In the mountains, even as late as October; it can gust and be as hot as 40°C. Also in October, supposedly lush springtime, it can still be tinder-dry and dreary.

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