Geography of Kenya
Central and Western Kenya is characterised by the Kenyan Rift Valley home to two of Africa's highest mountains, Mount Kenya and Mount Elgon.The Kakamega Forest in western Kenya is relic of an East African rainforest. Much larger is Mau Forest, the largest forest complex in East Africa.
- 1 Geography
- 2 Coastline
- 3 Geology
- 4 Climate
- 5 Terrain
- 6 Natural hazards
- 7 Extreme points
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- Total: 580,367 km2 (224,081 sq mi)
- Land: 569,140 km2 (219,750 sq mi)
- Water: 11,227 km2 (4,335 sq mi)
- Total: 3,457 km (2,148 mi)
- Border countries: Ethiopia 867 km (539 mi), Somalia 684 km (425 mi), South Sudan 317 km (197 mi), Tanzania 775 km (482 mi), Uganda 814 km (506 mi)
- 536 km (333 mi) along the Indian Ocean.
- Territorial sea: 12 nmi (22.2 km; 13.8 mi)
- Exclusive economic zone: 200 nmi (370.4 km; 230.2 mi)
- Continental shelf: 200 m depth or to the depth of exploitation
Much of the western two-thirds of the country consists of the Pliocene–Pleistocene volcanics deposited on Precambrian basement rocks. The southeast corner of the country is underlain by sediments of the Karoo System of Permian to Late Triassic age and a strip of Jurassic age sediments along the coast in the Mombasa area. The Anza trough is a NW–SE trending Jurassic rift extending from the Indian Ocean coast to the Sudan northwest of Lake Turkana. The Anza Rift resulted from the break–up of Gondwana.
The climate of Kenya varies by location, from mostly cool every day, to always warm/hot. The climate along the coast is tropical. This means rainfall and temperatures are higher throughout the year. At the coastal cities, Mombasa, Lamu and Malindi, the air changes from cool to hot, almost every day (see chart below).
The further inside Kenya, the more arid the climate becomes. An arid climate is nearly devoid of rainfall, and temperature swings widely according to the general time of the day/night. For many areas of Kenya, the daytime temperature rises about 12 C (corresponding to a rise of about 22F), almost every day.
Elevation is the major factor in temperature levels, with the higher areas, on average, as 11 °C (20 °F) cooler, day or night. The many mile-high cities have temperature swings from roughly 50–79 °F (10.0–26.1 °C). Nairobi, at 1,798 m (5,899 ft) or 1.798 km (1.12 mi), ranges from 49–80 °F (9.4–26.7 °C), and Kitale, at 1,825 m (5,988 ft) or 1.825 km (1.13 mi), ranges from 51–82 °F (10.6–27.8 °C). At night, heavy clothes or blankets are needed, in the highlands, when the temperature drops to about 50–54 °F (10.0–12.2 °C) every night.
At lower altitudes, the increased temperature is like day and night, literally: like starting the morning at the highland daytime high, and then adding the heat of the day, again. Hence, the overnight low temperatures near sealevel are nearly the same as the high temperatures of the elevated Kenyan highlands. However, locations along the Indian Ocean have more moderate temperatures, as a few degrees cooler in the daytime, such as at Mombasa (see chart below).
There are slight seasonal variations in temperature, of 4 °C or 7.2 °F, cooler in the winter months. Although Kenya is centred at the equator, it shares the seasons of the southern hemisphere: with the warmest summer months in February–March and the coolest winter months in July–August, although only a few degrees cooler.
|Climate Data for Mombasa (at Indian Ocean)|
High value F
Low value F
High value C
Low value C
Kenya's terrain is composed of low plains that rise into central highlands that are, in turn, bisected by the Great Rift Valley. There is also a fertile plateau in the west of the country.
The lowest point on Kenya is at sea level on the Indian Ocean. The highest point on Kenya is 5,199 meters above sea level at Mount Kenya.
Natural resources that are found in Kenya include: limestone, soda ash, salt, gemstones, fluorspar, zinc, diatomite, oil, gas, gypsum, wildlife and hydropower.
9.8% of the land is arable; permanent crops occupy 0.9% of the land, permanent pasture occupy 37.4% of the land; forest occupies 6.1% of the land. Other uses make up the rest of Kenya's land. (2011)
1032 km² of Kenyan land is irrigated.(2003)
Total renewable water resources
30.7 km3 (2011)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)
- Total: 2.74 km3.yr (17%/4%/79%)
- Per capita: 72.96 m3/yr (2003)
Natural hazards include recurring drought and flooding during the rainy seasons.
There is limited volcanic activity in the country. The Barrier (elev. 1,032 m) last erupted in 1921. South Island is the only other historically active volcano.
Current issues that threaten the environment at the moment include water pollution from urban and industrial wastes; degradation of water quality from the increased use of pesticides and fertilizers; deforestation; water hyacinth infestation in Lake Victoria; soil erosion; desertification; and poaching.
- Party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution (MARPOL 73/78), Wetlands, Whaling
- Signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
This is a list of the extreme points of Kenya, the points that are farther north, south, east or west than any other location.
- Northernmost point – Kalukwakerith mountain, Turkana County*
- Easternmost point – the tripoint with Ethiopia and Somalia, Mandera County
- Southernmost point – the point where the border with Tanzania enters the Indian Ocean, Kwale County
- Westernmost point – unnamed headland immediately east of Port Victoria, Busia County
- Note: This is including the disputed Ilemi Triangle region. If this area is excluded then Kenya does not have a northernmost point, the northern border being a straight line
- cia.gov – The World Factbook Kenya
- Petroleum Potential of NW-Kenya Rift Basins: A Synopsis of Evidence and Issues
- L C Greene, D R Richards, R A Johnson (1991). "Crustal structure and tectonic evolution of the Anza rift, northern Kenya". Tectonophysics 197 (2–4): 203–211. doi:10.1016/0040-1951(91)90041-P. Retrieved 2011-11-20.
- "NairobiDagoretti, Kenya: Climate, Global Warming, and Daylight Charts and Data", Climate-Charts.com, 2008, web: CC741: compare Nairobi/Dagoretti data with the Kitale or Mombasa charts.
- "Kitale, Kenya: Climate, Global Warming, and Daylight Charts and Data", Climate-Charts.com, 2008, web: CC661.
- "Mombasa, Kenya: Climate, Global Warming, and Daylight Charts and Data", Climate-Charts.com, 2008, web: CC820: May precipitation was reset as "246" mm, converting 9.7 in.