Drier than dry – Harmattan

Ghana’s (and of course PCC’s) climate is characterized by tropical heat and high humidity.

We all feel quite clammy and sticky here, at least for the greater part of the year.
However …, each year there is a period of a different climate, called Harmattan. Most of the time the Harmattan season starts around Christmas, it lasts for a few weeks till about the end of January and it coincides with Ghana’s dry season. The dry season starts in November and it lasts till March/April, then there is very little rain. The rainy season will only begin in April/May. The closer to April the warmer and clammier it will become and most Europeans who are staying in Ghana do not like this weather at all, even the Ghanaians think it is becoming too hot then!
But what about the Harmattan! This is a very dry wind that is blowing straight from the Sahara towards us. During daytime it is (still) very hot, but humidity will drop to a very low level (sometimes even less than 15%!) and this feels completely different. Hefty sweating, which seems to be part and parcel to Ghana, will stop completely for a few weeks, because your perspiration will evaporate before it can bead on your skin.
Besides …, the enormous differences in temperature in the desert travel along with this Sahara wind: during the day it is very warm and dry, but at night temperatures will drop to (a disturbing…..) 20°C or even lower (!). Early in the morning it will be “only” 18 or 19°C for example, which is a very agreeable temperature to a European, especially when combined with the dry air, but to most Ghanaians it is very cold. They will be walking around shivering in their thick sweaters and coats. Brrr!
Together with this wind from the Sahara also numerous very fine particles of dust will come, sometimes causing a thick mist of dust here. Then the sun won’t be bright white anymore, but it will seem almost orange because of all those particles (proud Dutchmen would call it an Orange sun after the Dutch national colour)!
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These very fine particles will penetrate almost anything, everything will be covered in a layer of dust each and every day. It is possible to write your name anywhere and you feel as if your lungs are filled with dust too!
And as if all this dust it not yet enough Ghanaian farmers like using this period to burn all bushes, weeds and rest overs of their crops on their fields. This leads to a daily whirling down of a great amount of soot and impressive bush fires, which are sometimes very near PCC. The crackling fire is no more than 50 -100 metres from our compound and not everybody will sleep very comfortably then … . The Ghanaians will smile, because it is their experience that it almost never goes wrong.
Our newly installed solar panels have to be cleaned regularly during Harmattan, because they won’t be able to produce any energy when they are covered in dust and soot.
During the Harmattan season many children of PCC have colds, which are triggered by the dust, these colds often go together with a tickling cough. The air can be so dry that the lips of the children and caregivers will swell and burst. Many heels will be chapped which is quite painful. Sometimes noses will bleed spontaneously. During the Harmattan a lot of moisturizer is being used to rub in and protect the dry skin of the children.
For a few weeks also the Harmattan belongs to Ghana! Then it is very dry here, drier than dry …, until suddenly the weather will change and the hygrometer will measure 90% or more in a few days which is a fixture for Ghana.
Then we will be perspiring profusely, each and every day and night and we will have to wait almost a year for the next Harmattan!