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Iraq has two climatic provinces: the hot, arid lowlands, including the alluvial plains and the deserts; and the damper northeast, where the higher elevation produces cooler temperatures. In the northeast cultivation fed by precipitation is possible, but elsewhere irrigation is essential.

In the lowlands there are two seasons, summer and winter, with short transitional periods between them. Summer, which lasts from May to October , is characterized by clear skies, extremely high temperatures, and low relative humidity; no precipitation occurs from June through September. The diurnal temperatures range in summer is considerable. In winter the paths of westerly atmospheric depressions crossing the Middle East shift southward, bringing rain to southern Iraq. Annual totals vary considerably from year to year, but mean annual precipitation in the lowlands ranges from about 4 to 7 inches to mm ; nearly all of this occurs between November and April.

Winter in the lowlands lasts from December to February. Temperatures are generally mild, although extremes of hot and cold, including frosts, can occur. In the northeast the summer is shorter than in the lowlands, lasting from June to September, and the winter considerably longer. In the foothills of the northeast, annual precipitation of 12 to 22 inches to mm , enough to sustain good seasonal pasture, is typical.

Precipitation may exceed 40 inches 1, mm in the mountains, much of which falls as snow. As in the lowlands, little rain falls during the summer. It brings extremely dry air, so hardly any clouds form, and the land surface is thus heated intensively by the sun.

Dust storms occur throughout Iraq during most of the year and may rise to great height in the atmosphere. They are particularly frequent in summer, with five or six striking central Iraq in July, the peak of the season. Vegetation in Iraq reflects the dominant influence of drought.

Some Mediterranean and alpine plant species thrive in the mountains of Kurdistan , but the open oak forests that formerly were found there have largely disappeared. Hawthorns, junipers, terebinths, and wild pears grow on the lower mountain slopes. A great variety of herbs and shrubs grow in that region. Most belong to the sage and daisy families: mugwort Artemisis vulgaris , goosefoot, milkweed, thyme, and various rhizomic plants are examples.

There also are many different grasses. Toward the riverine lowlands many other plants appear, including storksbill and plantain. Willows, tamarisks, poplars, licorice plants, and bulrushes grow along the banks of the lower Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The juice of the licorice plant is extracted for commercial purposes. Dozens of varieties of date palm flourish throughout southern Iraq, where the date palm dominates the landscape. The lakesides and marshlands support many varieties of reeds, sedges, pimpernels, vetches, and geraniums.

By contrast, vegetation in the desert regions is sparse, with tamarisk, milfoil, and various plants of the genera Ziziphus and Salsola being characteristic. Birds are easily the most conspicuous form of wildlife. There are many resident species, though the effect of large-scale drainage of the southern wetlands on migrants and seasonal visitors—which were once numerous—has not been fully determined. The lion, oryx, ostrich, and wild ass have become extinct in Iraq.

Wolves, foxes, jackals, hyenas, wild pigs, and wildcats are found, as well as many small animals such as martens, badgers, otters, porcupines, and muskrats. The Arabian sand gazelle survives in certain remote desert locations. Rivers, streams, and lakes are well stocked with a variety of fish, notably carp, various species of Barbus , catfish, and loach.

In common with other regions of the Middle East, Iraq is a breeding ground for the unwelcome desert locust. Modern Iraq, created by combining three separate Ottoman provinces in the aftermath of World War I , is one of the most religiously and ethnically diverse societies in the Middle East.

The ancient Semitic peoples of Iraq, the Babylonians and Assyrians , and the non-Semitic Sumerians were long ago assimilated by successive waves of immigrants. The Arab conquests of the 7th century brought about the Arabization of central and southern Iraq. A mixed population of Kurds and Arabs inhabit a transition zone between those areas and Iraqi Kurdistan in the northeast.

Learning Guides. Videos Images Audio. Additional Info. Load . Climate of Iraq Iraq has two climatic provinces: the hot, arid lowlands, including the alluvial plains and the deserts; and the damper northeast, where the higher elevation produces cooler temperatures. Britannica Quiz. The Middle East: Fact or Fiction? Is the literacy rate in Afghanistan very high?

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