Introduction to the Malaysian climate
Foreigners visiting the tropical nation of Malaysia should familiarize themselves with the country’s tropical climate seasons. Malaysia rests in the equatorial area, allowing it to have a combination of sunny weather and ample rainfall all year long. The country’s climate is further characterised as having uniform temperatures, light winds, high humidity, and two monsoon regimes. The monsoon is defined as a seasonal wind alteration accompanied by corresponding changes in precipitation. It has two variations, the Southwest Monsoon and the Northeast Monsoon. Temperatures usually averages between 22°C and 32°C.
Southwest Monsoon (Late May to September)
The Southwest Monsoon is the drier season throughout the country except for the state of Sabah in East Malaysia. During this season, most states experience monthly minimum rainfall. This monsoon season can be characterized by relatively stable atmospheric conditions in the equatorial region. As such, this time of the year would be ideal for diving in the eastern islands or off the coast of Sabah, as these internationally acclaimed diving sites feature calmer waters during this period. Trips to beach resorts around the nation during this season is also an extremely popular choice among travellers and locals.
It is also the best time to go out and take part in the various outdoor activities found throughout the nation, such as jungle trekking, exploring night markets, tasting the various street foods, white water rafting, rock climbing, and various other non-adventurous and intrepid activities. Road trips are also a popular option to traverse and see the nation in all its glory.
Because the Southwest Monsoon period features drier and hotter climate conditions, it is advisable for those not used to the hot sunny weather to use a sun hat, an umbrella, or to slap on some UV protective sunblock. In addition to sun protection measurements, one should also keep hydrated and cool by occasionally ducking in to one of the roadside stalls, convenience stores, supermarkets, cafes, malls, and other air-conditioned outlets that litter the city landscape for a chance to grab some refreshments.
Northeast Monsoon (November to March)
The northeast monsoon is the major rainy season in the country. Monsoon weather systems that develop in conjunction with cold air outbreaks from Siberia produce heavy rains that often cause severe floods along the east coast states of Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and East Johor in Peninsular Malaysia, and in the state of Sarawak in East Malaysia.
While it frequently pours throughout the Northeast Monsoon, it is sometimes a welcoming change for many Malaysians as it cools down the daily hot and humid temperatures. Thunderstorms also make an infrequent appearance during this season. If you’re lucky, there also exist occasional days that doesn’t have the usual fare of rainy afternoons during this monsoon season.
That being said, the constant rainfall can also put a damper on locals and tourists who want to enjoy the bountiful outdoor scenic splendors the country has to offer. Those who want to visit Malaysia’s world-renowned diving spots will also have to be aware that it is often unadvisable during this rainy season as weather and underwater currents can become extreme and life threatening over at the diving spots.
Weather advisories, warnings, and preparations for the wet Monsoon season
The Malaysian Meteorological Department monitors the changing weather situations during monsoon season in Malaysia. They issue weather statements, outlooks, advisories and warnings when the need arises. The different categories of monsoon advisories and warnings are:
- Heavy rainfall advisories – Issued when there is a possibility of heavy rainfall occurrence within 24 to 48 hours.
- Heavy rainfall warnings – Issued when latest information received indicate that heavy rainfall is expected.
- Strong winds and rough seas advisories – Issued when there is a possibility of strong wind and rough seas within the Malaysian waters within 24 to 48 hours.
- Strong wind and rough seas warnings – Issued when latest information received indicate that strong wind and rough seas are expected.
Before and during the wet monsoon season begins, one should pay attention to radio and television warnings of the aforementioned monsoon advisories and warnings. Those living in Malaysia should clear clogged drains and rain gutters to avoid potential floods.
There are a number of precautionary measures one can familiarize themselves with in case of emergencies. Finding firm ground, following the instructions of your local disaster preparedness council, and avoid going out to sea in small vessels and fishing boats are just some of the things to take into consideration.
Community & Travel
Monsoon in Malaysia
Is there a monsoon season affecting certain attractions and destinations within Malaysia?
Usually the first question you ask when organizing a holiday trip to Malaysia is: What is the best period to visit the country. Malaysia is the perfect destination throughout the whole year. In countries with a tropical climate it’s obvious that it rains once in a while. Most of the time this is a short (heavy) period, and before you know it the sun already shines. When it comes to the rainy seasons 3 different regions can be distinguished in Malaysia, namely the eastern side and western side of the peninsula and Borneo.
To the western side of the peninsula of Malaysia there’s hardly a rainy season or monsoon. This is because of the moderate climate at the Andaman Sea. Here Malaysia is protected by the Indonesian island of Sumatra for a great part. Along the western side of the peninsula the weather can of course be a little bad. It can sometimes be a day with bad weather indeed, but most of the time there’s just a short and heavy shower at the end of the day (this is normal in the tropics). You can be quite sure that between 4 and 5 in the afternoon it rains persistently for about 10 to 30 minutes. As a matter of fact this is often very pleasant, a bit of cooling at the end of the day. Islands to the western side are: Penang, Langkawi and Pangkor amongst others. So here there’s hardly a serious rainy season, although, it’s not an inconvenience when you’re on holiday there. Kuala Lumpur is also on the western side and here there’s often a difference in the dry and wet periods. In such a great metropolis in a tropical climate it’s nice when there’s rain because this makes the air cleaner.
The rainy season to the eastern side of the peninsula is in the period between October and March and can be quite heavy; it sometimes rains days on end then. Resorts on islands like Perhentian, Redang and Tioman are often closed in this period, because the sea can be very wild and a passage with the ferry can be difficult. All the beauty of the bounty islands has disappeared for a while. Cities like Kota Bharu, Kuala Terengganu and Kuantan are also less attractive to visit during this period. Around Kuantan there can sometimes be floods in this period. Apart from that, every year is different, sometimes it rains for weeks in a row, other times the weather can be beautiful for a couple of days.
The rainy season on Borneo is in the period of October to February; although in this last month it doesn’t rain as much as in the remaining months. A shower is short and fierce most of the times and before you know it the sun shines again. The islands to the northwestern side of Borneo have to deal now and then with the ‘tail’ of typhoons from the Philippines. This unloads itself in heavy wind and rainfall.