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For the French publisher, see L'Harmattan.
For the Maemo release code-named Harmattan, see Maemo.
Harmattan haze surrounding Abuja National Mosque in Abuja

The Harmattan is a cold-dry[1] and dusty trade wind, blowing over the West African subcontinent. This northeasterly wind blows from the Sahara Desert into the Gulf of Guinea between the end of November and the middle of March (winter).[2] The name comes from or is related to an Akan cognate.[3]

The Harmattan blows during the dry season, which occurs during the lowest-sun months, when the subtropical ridge of high pressure stays over the central Sahara Desert and when the low-pressure Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) stays over the Gulf of Guinea. On its passage over the Sahara, it picks up fine dust and sand particles (between 0.5 and 10 microns).


The Harmattan is characterized by cold, dry, dust-laden wind, and also wide fluctuations in the ambient temperatures of the day and night. Temperatures can easily be as low as 9 °C (48 °F), but sometimes in the afternoon the temperature can soar to as high as 30 °C (86°F), while the relative humidity drops under 10%.

Harmattan haze over Ho, Ghana

The air is particularly dry and desiccating when the Harmattan blows over the region.[1] The Harmattan brings desert-like weather conditions: it lowers the humidity, dissipates cloud cover, prevents rainfall formation and sometimes creates big clouds of dust which can result in duststorms or sandstorms.[citation needed] The wind can increase fire risk[4] and cause severe crop damage.[5] The interaction of the Harmattan with monsoon winds can cause tornadoes.[2]

Harmattan haze[edit]

In some countries in West Africa, the heavy amount of dust in the air can severely limit visibility and block the sun for several days,[6] comparable to a heavy fog. This effect is known as the Harmattan haze. It costs airlines millions of dollars in cancelled and diverted flights each year.[7][8] When the haze is weak, the skies are clear.[9][10] The dry air can break the trunks of trees growing in the region.[citation needed]


Humidity drops to as low as 15%, which can result in spontaneous nosebleeds for some people.[11] Other health effects on humans may include conditions of the skin, eyes, and respiratory system, including aggravation of asthma.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Minka, Ndazo S. & Ayo, Joseph O. (March 2013). "Influence of cold–dry (harmattan) season on colonic temperature and the development of pulmonary hypertension in broiler chickens, and the modulating effect of ascorbic acid". Dove Press Journal (Open Access Animal Physiology). 
  2. ^ a b "Harmattan". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 22 July 2015. 
  3. ^ "Harmattan". Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, Inc harmattan. 2012. 
  4. ^ "Harmattan: Behold A Season". Leadership (Nigerian newspaper). 13 December 2014. 
  5. ^ Terazono, Emiko and Blas, Javier (January 19, 2012). "Saharan wind stirs cocoa market". Financial Times. Retrieved January 28, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Tuareg unrest". BBC, via Temoust. 2007-09-07. Archived from the original on 2007-12-30. Retrieved 2007-10-08. 
  7. ^ This Day: Nigerian Civil Aviation warns pilots, airlines of Harmattan haze
  8. ^ Valdmanis, Richard (2012-02-08). "Giant dust cloud chokes west Africa". Reuters. Retrieved 2012-02-09. 
  9. ^ "As harmattan finally hits Lagos". Vanaguard. 16 December 2014. Retrieved 11 October 2015. 
  10. ^ "The Climate Of Nigeria". The Library of Congress Studies. Retrieved 11 October 2015. 
  11. ^ Terazono, Emiko and Blas, Javier (January 19, 2012). "Saharan wind stirs cocoa market". Financial Times. Retrieved January 28, 2012. 
  12. ^ Anuforo, Emeka; Chukwu, Lilian (20 January 2015). "Coping With Health Hazards of Harmattan Haze". Rivers State News. 

External links[edit]