Climate of Iran

Is the Climate of Iran as Dry as You Think It Is?

Lake of Taleghan Dam, Iran
Ali Majdfar, All rights reserved/Moment/Getty Images

Iran, officially called the Islamic Republic of Iran, is located in western Asia, a region that is better known as the Middle East. Iran is a large country with the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf making up much of the northern and southern borders, respectively. To the west, Iran shares a large border with Iraq and a smaller border with Turkey. It also shares large borders with Turkmenistan to the northeast and Afghanistan and Pakistan to the east. It is the second-largest nation in the Middle East in terms of land size and the 17th largest country in the world in terms of population. Iran is the home of some of the world’s oldest civilizations dating back to the Proto-Elamite kingdom in approximately 3200 BCE.

Fast Facts: Iran

  • Official Name: Islamic Republic of Iran
  • Capital: Tehran
  • Population: 83,024,745 (2018)
  • Official Language: Persian 
  • Currency: Iranian rial (IRR)
  • Form of Government: Theocratic republic
  • Climate: Mostly arid or semiarid, subtropical along Caspian coast
  • Total Area: 636,369 square miles (1,648,195 square kilometers)
  • Highest Point: Kuh-e Damavand at 18,454 feet (5,625 meters) 
  • Lowest Point: Caspian Sea at 92 feet (-28 meters)

Iran’s Topography

Iran covers such a large area of land (approximately 636,369 square miles) that the country contains a vast variety of landscapes and terrains. Much of Iran is made up of the Iranian Plateau, which the exception of the Caspian Sea and Persian Gulf coastlines where the only large plains are found. Iran is also one of the most mountainous countries in the world. These large mountain ranges cut through the landscape and divide the numerous basins and plateaus. The western side of the country possesses the largest mountain ranges such as the Caucasus, Alborz, and Zagros Mountains. The Alborz contains Iran’s highest point on Mount Damavand. The northern part of the country is marked by dense rainforests and jungles, whereas eastern Iran is mostly desert basins which also contain some salt lakes formed due to the mountain ranges that interfere with rain clouds.

Iran’s Climate

Iran has what is considered a variable climate that ranges from semi-arid to subtropical. In the northwest, winters are cold with heavy snowfall and subfreezing temperatures during December and January. Spring and fall are relatively mild, while summers are dry and hot. In the south, however, winters are mild and the summers are very hot, with average daily temperatures in July exceeding 100 degrees (38°C). On the Khuzestan plain, the extreme summer heat is accompanied by high humidity.

In general, Iran has an arid climate in which most of the relatively scant annual precipitation falls from October through April. In most of the country, yearly precipitation averages only 9.84 inches (25 cm) or less. The major exceptions to this semiarid and arid climate are the higher mountain valleys of the Zagros and the Caspian coastal plain, where precipitation averages at least 19.68 inches (50 cm) annually. In the western part of the Caspian, Iran sees the greatest rainfall in the country where it exceeds 39.37 inches (100 cm) annually and is distributed relatively evenly throughout the year rather than being confined to a rainy season. This climate contrasts greatly with some basins of the Central Plateau that receive 3.93 inches (10 cm) or less of precipitation annually where it has been said that “water scarcity poses the most severe human security challenge in Iran today” (UN Resident Coordinator for Iran, Gary Lewis).