Due to its large size, the climate of South America varies with each region, determined by their own geographical location, ocean currents and winds. Keeping that in mind, its climate is as varied as you can get. Let's remember that South America is the world's fourth-largest continent, with an extension of 17,840,000 km², covering approximately 12% of the Earth's land.
Climate is usually defined as the "average weather" over a period of time, usually a 30 years span, the average daily and seasonal weather for a region; including temperature, precipitation, wind, and sunshine.
Weather averages for 30 years - often called "normals" - are much more reliable guides than the weather for the last year or few years.
Since forecasts aren't possible for more than a week or so ahead, you need to rely on weather averages to find a pattern.
The climate of South America has a distinct wet and dry season throughout, making overall generalizations not particularly useful.
The Andean regions of Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia share in common - from May to November - the driest and coldest time of the year.
As you move away from the Equator and reach higher altitudes, temperature changes more dramatically, from below the freezing point in the dry season to around 28°C (82.4°F) or more in the wet season.
Rain is spread more or less evenly throughout the year, making the wet season not too wet after all, particularly if you compare it with the Amazon river basin, coastal parts of French Guiana, Guyana and Suriname, the southwestern parts of Chile, Colombia and Ecuador coasts.
The Amazon river basin has the typical hot and wet climate suitable for the growth of rain forests. There, climate turns hot and humid - with temperatures in the range of 70 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
The less wet season in the jungle roughly corresponds to the dry season in the Andes mountains.
They do, however, share some common weather patterns, like in Patagonia for instance, with temperatures below freezing during their winter months and incessant winds anytime of year.
Buenos Aires weather can get unbearable hot and humid during summer, not the ideal time to visit if you can avoid it.
In general terms, the climate of South America seems to be more benign and pleasant during shoulder seasons: autumn and spring.
Antarctica can only be reached during summer months - Nov. to March - as the remaining part of the year the access route is blocked by ice.
It has the strongest winds on the planet and the minimum annual rainfall.
Two recurrent weather phenomenons affecting the climate of South America - and world's climate - are El Niño and La Niña.
When winds slow, ocean circulation decreases and eastern Pacific surface temperatures warm, it's called El Niño or "warm event".
Conversely, when strong winds appear, ocean circulation increases and eastern Pacific ocean temperatures cool, we are in front of La Niña, also known as "El Viejo" (anti-El Niño) or "cold event".
Click here to find out about current temperatures in South America. You can also find out about daily precipitation in South America.
For country-specific weather and climate info, please visit the following pages...