The country’s Mediterranean climate is similar to that of southern California, with lush forests in the northern and central mountain ranges of the country, giving way to drier conditions and inland deserts further southeast.
The Moroccan coastal plains experience remarkably moderate temperatures even in summer, owing to the effect of the cold Canary Current off its Atlantic coast.
In the Rif, Middle and High Atlas Mountains exists several different types of climates: Mediterranean along the coastal lowlands, giving way to a humid temperate climate at higher elevations with sufficient moisture to allow for the growth of different species of oaks, moss carpets, junipers, and Atlantic fir which is a royal conifer tree endemic to Morocco.
In the valleys, fertile soils and high precipitation allow for the growth of thick and lush forests. Cloud forests can be found in the west of the Rif Mountains and Middle Atlas Mountains. At higher elevations, the climate becomes alpine in character, and can sustain ski resorts.
Southeast of the Atlas Mountains near the Algerian borders, the climate becomes very dry, with long and hot summers. Extreme heat and low moisture levels are especially pronounced in the lowland regions east of the Atlas range due to the rain shadow effect of the mountain system.
The southeastern-most portions of Morocco are very hot, and include portions of the Sahara Desert, where vast swathes of sand dunes and rocky plains are dotted with lush oases.
In contrast to the Sahara region in the south, coastal plains are fertile in the central and northern regions of the country and consist of the backbone of the country’s agriculture in which 95% of the population stay.
The direct exposure to the North Atlantic Ocean, the proximity to mainland Europe and the long stretched Rif and Atlas Mountains are the factors of the rather European-like climate in the northern half of the country.
That makes from Morocco a country of contrasts. Forested areas cover about 12% of the country while arable land accounts for 18%. Approximately 5% of Moroccan land is irrigated for agricultural use.
In general, apart from the southeast regions (pre-Saharan and desert areas), Morocco’s climate and geography are very similar to the Iberian Peninsula. Thus we have the following climate zones:
Mediterranean: It dominates the coastal Mediterranean regions of the country, along the (500 km strip), and some parts of the Atlantic coast. Summers are hot to moderately hot and dry, average highs are between 29 °C (84.2 °F) and 32 °C (89.6 °F).
Winters are generally mild and wet, daily average temperatures hover around 9 °C (48.2 °F) to 11 °C (51.8 °F) and average low are around 5 °C (41.0 °F) to 8 °C (46.4 °F), typical to the coastal areas of the west Mediterranean.
Annual Precipitation in this area vary from 600-800mm in the west to 350–500 mm in the east. Notable cities that fall into this zone are Tangier, Tetouan, Al Hoceima, Nador and Safi.
Sub-Mediterranean: It influences cities that show Mediterranean characteristics, but remain fairly influenced by other climates owing to their either relative elevation, or direct exposure to the North Atlantic Ocean. We thus have two main influencing climates:
Oceanic: Determined by the cooler summers, where highs are around 27 °C (80.6 °F) and in terms of the Essaouira region, are almost always around 21 °C (69.8 °F).
The medium daily temperatures can get as low as 19 °C (66.2 °F), while winters are chilly to mild and wet. Annual precipitation varies from 400 to 700 mm. Notable cities that fall into this zone are Rabat, Casablanca, Kénitra, Salé and Essaouira.
Continental: Determined by the bigger gap between highs and lows, that results in hotter summers and colder winters, than found in typical Mediterranean zones. In summer, daily highs can get as high as 40 °C (104.0 °F) during heat waves, but usually are between 32 °C (89.6 °F) and 36 °C (96.8 °F).
However, temperatures drop as the sun sets. Night temperatures usually fall below 20 °C (68.0 °F), and sometimes as low as 10 °C (50.0 °F) in mid-summer. Winters are cooler, and can get below the freezing point multiple times between December and February.
Also, snow can fall occasionally. Fès for example registered −8 °C (17.6 °F) in winter 2005. Annual precipitation varies between 500 and 900 mm. Notable cities are Fès, Meknès, Chefchaouen, Beni-Mellal and Taza.
Continental: This type of climate dominates the mountainous regions of the north and central parts of the country, where summers are hot to very hot, with highs between 32 °C (89.6 °F) and 36 °C (96.8 °F). Winters on the other hand are cold, and lows usually go beyond the freezing point.
And when cold damp air comes to Morocco from the northwest, for a few days, temperatures sometimes get below −5 °C (23.0 °F). It often snows abundantly in this part of the country. Precipitation varies between 400 and 800 mm. Notable cities are Khenifra, Imilchil, Midelt and Azilal.
Alpine: This type of climate is found in some parts of the Middle Atlas Mountain range and the eastern part of the High Atlas Mountain range. Summers are very warm to moderately hot, and winters are longer, cold and snowy.
Precipitation varies between 400 and 1200 mm. In summer highs barely go above 30 °C (86.0 °F) and lows are cool and average below 15 °C (59.0 °F). In winters, highs average around 8 °C (46.4 °F), and lows go well below the freezing point. In this part of country, there are many ski resorts, such as Oukaimeden and Mischliefen. Notable cities are Ifrane, Azrou and Boulmane.
Semi-arid: This type of climate is found in the south of the country and some parts of the east of the country, where rainfall is lower and annual precipitations are between 200 and 350 mm.
However, one usually finds Mediterranean characteristics in those regions, such as the precipitation pattern and thermal attributes. Notable cities are Agadir, Marrakesh and Oujda.
South of Agadir and east of Jerada near the Algerian borders, arid and desert climate starts to prevail.
Note: Due to Morocco’s proximity to the Sahara desert and the North Sea of the Atlantic Ocean, two phenomena occur to influence the regional seasonal temperatures, either by raising temperatures by 7–8 degrees Celsius when sirocco blows from the east creating heatwaves, or by lowering temperatures by 7–8 degrees Celsius when cold damp air blows from the northwest, creating a coldwave or cold spell. However, these phenomena don’t last for more than 2 to 5 days on average.
Countries or regions that share the same climatic characteristics with Morocco are California (USA), Portugal, Spain and Algeria.
Annual rainfall in Morocco is different according to regions. The northwestern parts of the country receive between 500 mm and 1200 mm, while the northeastern parts receive between 350 and 600 mm. North Central Morocco receives between 700 mm and up to 3500 mm.
The area from Casablanca to Essaouira, on the Atlantic coast, receives between 300 mm and 500 mm. The regions from Essaouira to Agadir receive between 250 mm and 400 mm.
Region of Marrakesh in the central south receives only 250 mm a year. The southeastern regions, basically the driest areas, receive between 100 mm and 200 mm only, and consist basically of arid and desert lands.
Botanically speaking, Morocco enjoys a great variety of vegetation, from lush large forests of conifer and oak trees typical of the western Mediterranean countries (Morocco, Algeria, Italy, Spain, France and Portugal), to shrubs and acacias further south.
This is due to the diversity of climate and the precipitation patterns in the country.
Morocco’s weather is one of the most pristine in terms of the four-season experience. Most regions have distinct seasons where summer is usually not spoiled by rain and winter turns wet, snowy and humid with mild, cool to cold temperatures, while spring and fall see warm to mild weather characterised by flowers blooming in spring and falling leaves in autumn.
This type of weather has affected the Moroccan culture and behaviour and played a part in the social interaction of the population, like many other countries that fall into this type of climate zone.