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Climate and WeatherBack to top Back to main Skip to menu
Malaysia - Climate and Weather
For the purpose of climate, Malaysia can be divided into three different categories: coastal, highlands, and lowlands. There are also two distinctly different regions of Malaysia, each with their own unique weather patterns. Peninsular Malaysia has a slightly dryer climate than Eastern Malaysia because of the El Nino effect - this reduces rainfall for Peninsular Malaysia during the dry season. The upper altitudes in the mountainous region of Malaysia see a more varied temperature range, and can get quite cold at night.
Monsoons are very influential in Malaysian weather. During the months of May through September, monsoons sweep from South to West, and during the months of November through March the monsoons sweep from North to East.
Because of these monsoons, the West coast of Malaysia is wettest during the months of April through October, and the East coast is wettest during the months of November to February. While the West coast wet season is relatively mild, with brief thunderstorms during the afternoons, the East coast wet season is much heavier and best to avoid. In fact, many beach resorts close during the wet season and reopen in March.
The popular destination of Kuala Lumpur is wettest during the months of March to April, and from September to November. Malaysian Borneo, another popular tourist destination, is wettest from November through February.
The best time to visit the East coast is in June-July, and the weather on the West coast is favorable in January-February. Sabah is pleasant in April, and Sarawak is dry in the months of June-July.
What is suitable clothing for the different seasons?
Loose fitting clothes made out of light materials are sensible year-round. Cotton or moisture-wicking materials are ideal because of the constant humidity. Skimpy clothing is not advisable anywhere other than the beach, and it is recommended that women to keep legs and upper arms covered in public in order to avoid offending local cultural norms. It is wise to bring an umbrella because of unpredictable rain.
The average annual rainfall is 250 cm with November being the wettest month with a 320 mm average. June and July are the driest months overall with a 130 mm average.
Rain is variable and it depends on location and time of year. During the rainy season, East Malaysia can get as much as 5080 mm of rain, while Peninsular Malaysia gets just 2500 mm of rain during its wet season. The lowlands in the interior have a more consistent pattern of rainfall, and are very humid. The average humidity for Kuala Lumpur is around 80%.
Malaysia is close to the equator, so the country sees abundant sunshine. March and May have the most sunshine at just over 200 hours each. November has the least at 150 hours. Naturally, the rainy seasons impact the amount of sunshine Malaysia receives, so when everything is factored in, Malaysia receives about 6 hours of sunshine a day. There are variations according to location, of course. On peninsular Malaysia, Alor Setar and Kota Bharu receive around 7 hours of sunshine per day while on the island of Borneo, Kuching sees just 5 hours per day. To show how varied the climate is according to location, here are some extremes: during the month of January, Peninsular Malaysia may get up to 8.7 hours of sunshine per day, while the island of Borneo gets only 3.7 during the same month.
Malaysia has high humidity average year-round, coming in between 70-90% depending on location. Heat and humidity rashes can be a problem, especially for people with sensitive skin. Babies are prone to diaper rashes in this sort of humidity, and adults and children can get ‘prickly rash’ in which sweat becomes trapped beneath the skin. In this happens, try to get into air conditioning as soon as possible, as you can overheat. Take a cold shower or sponge bath and avoid heavy creams and lotions. Keep cloths on hand when you go out so that you can clean and dry affected parts regularly, and remember to change babies’ diapers frequently. Moisture wicking fabrics are good as they keep the humidity and sweat pulled away from your skin, and can help prevent rashes.
Typhoons are possible between the months of July and November. Malaysia is also subject to tsunamis, and was affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. While West Malaysia is seismically stable, the region is still vulnerable to the effects of large earthquakes in Sumatra.
Malaysia is on Sunda tectonic plate, and wedged between two tectonic plates moving towards each other: Indian and Philippine. Because of this, the state of Sabah has more earthquakes than any other part of Malaysia. In 2015, Sabah was hit with an earthquake that was the strongest to affect Malaysia since 1976.
Due to the rainy seasons, Malaysia is prone to floods from rivers. Malaysia has 189 water basins and an average rainfall of 2000-4000 mm per year, making both flash floods and prolonged floods a significant risk.
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