Northern Cyprus hosts over 1600 plant specia of which 22 are endemic, 350 species of birds, of which 7 are endemic, and 26 different species of reptile and amphibia.
The two main reasons for this amazing diversity are, firstly, that Cyprus was not affected by the last ice-age (which wiped out many species from areas further north), and secondly, that Cyprus forms a resting and nesting station for birds migrating between Africa and Eastern Europe.
TRNC has an intense Mediterranean climate with the typical seasonal rhythms strongly marked in respect of temperature, rainfall and weather generally. Hot, dry summers from mid-May to mid-October and rainy, rather changeable winters from mid-November to mid-March are separated by short autumn and spring seasons of rapid change in weather conditions. The long narrow Besparmak mountain range, play an important part in the meteorology of TRNC. The predominantly clear skies and extensive sunshine give large seasonal and daily differences between temperatures of the sea and the interior of the island which also cause considerable local effects especially near the coast.At Latitude 35 degrees north and Longitude 33 degrees east, TRNC has a change in day-length from 9.8 hours in December to 14.5 hours in June. In summer the TRNC is mainly under the influence of a shallow trough of low pressure extending from the great continental depression centered over southwest Asia. It is a season of high temperatures with almost cloudless skies. Rainfall is negligible but isolated thunderstorms sometimes occur giving rainfall amounting to less than 5% of the total in the average year. In winter, TRNC is near the track of fairly frequent small depressions which cross the Mediterranean Sea from west to east between the continental anti-cyclone of Eurasia and the generally low pressure belt of North Africa. These depressions give periods of disturbed weather usually lasting for a day or so and produce most of the annual precipitation, the average amount from December to February being nearly two thirds of the year`s total.
Streams in Cyprus
There are not flowing streams on the island. The rivers used to flow both in winter and summer. But now they flow only in rainy winters. Kanlidere and Yayla are the two important streams in TRNC.
Vegetation is surprisingly variable an psentiful although Cyprus is a small island. Some parts of the island are ithout vegetation whereas some are covered with forests. The main reasons are the climate, altitude, soils etc. on mountainous areas where the rate of the rainfall is high and the temperature is cooler, the vegatation is sirch. However, in the plains the vegetation is poor, as the rate of rainfall is low and the temperatures too highNatural vegatation of Cyprus can be divided into four groups:
1. Forests large areas of Troodos Mountains and Borthern slopes of Besparmak Mountains(before the 1995 forest fire) were covered with forests. The most common tree is Aleppo pine(Pinus halepensis brutia) followed by Troodos pine(pinus nigra), cedar trees, cypress trees and Cyprus oak (Laca- quercus alnifolia). Aleppo pine covers 90% of the forests in Cyprus. About 17% of the whole island is being classified as woodland. Where the forest has been destroyed, tall shrub communities of arbutus and rachne, pistacia terebinthus, olea europea, quercus coccifera and styrax officinalis may survive, but such maquis is uncommon. Over most of the island untilled ground bears a grazed covering of garigue, largely composed of low bushes of cistus, genista sphacelata calycotoime villosa, lithospermum hispidulum, phaganalon rupestre and, locally, pistacia lentiscus. Where grazing is excessive this covering is soon reduced, and an impoverished batha remains, consisting principally of thymus capitatus, sarcopoterium spinosum, and a few stunted herbs.TRNC has a variety of natural vegetation. This includes forests of hardwood, evergreen and broadleaved trees such as pinus latepensis, cedar, cypressus and oak.
2. Maquis Maquis are small evergreen trees or shrubs. Typical examples are wild olive, myrtle, wild carob, turpentine tree etc. they represent a degeneration of the evergreen forests. They are impenetrable, thorny shrubs rising to aa height of not more than 3 m. In TRNC between Yenierenköy and Dipkarpaz and in the South around Akrotiri best examples could be seen.
3.Garrigues Garrigues occur when further degeneration occurs. They are lowgrowing, spiny scrubs. They grow in very dry areas where the soil is derived from limestone. Thyme and Mazi are typical garrigues. They are found in Southern slopes of Besparmak and Troodos mooountains.
4. Steppes This type of vegetation grows basically in Mesarya plain where seasonal variations in temperature and low rainfall is common. Trees are rare, and the landscape is one off various species of grasses and bulbous plants. Following the rains in winter the growth starts, but lasts only 2-3 months. In summer and autumn only hardy bushes and thorny plants shows signs of life. Gonnara and Catrez are typical examples.
Birds and Animals
TRNC has been endowed with a rich fauna including a large number of endemic birds, reptiles and animals. Because of its position, TRNC is also a vital stop-over for thousands of migratory birds which find the island an ideal place for both feeding and refuge. Among the animals the moufflon occupies an outstanding position and is considered as one of the natural treasures of the island. The moufflon belongs to the sheep family but this species is unique in the world. This animal has long been in danger of extinction, but today is a fully protected species.
Moderate earthquake activity and droughts.
Water resource problems: no natural reservoir catchments, seasonal disparity in rainfall, sea water intrusion to island`s largest aquifer, increased salination in the northern (TRNC) part.
The narrow ridge of the Besparmak range, stretching 100 miles from east to west along the extreme north of the island, produces a relatively small increase of rainfall to nearly 550 millimetres along its ridge at about 1,000 metres. The average annual rainfall is about 500 millimetres but it was as low as 213 millimetres in 1972/73 and as high as 800 millimetres in 1968/69. Statistical analysis of rainfall in Cyprus reveals a decreasing trend of rainfall amounts in the last decades. Snow occurs rarely in the lowlands and on the Besparmak range.
Hail and Thunder
Hail is reported on an average two or three times a year in the lowlands and probably three times as frequently on the mountains, usually between November and May, in most districts of Cyprus. Months most liable to have hailstorms are December to April but can occur, although rarely, in early summer and autumn, causing considerable damage to fruit crops. Thunder is rare from June to September but in other seasons is heard on average on four or five days per month from October to January and two or three days per month from February to May.
TRNC has a hot summer and mild winter but this generalization must be modified by consideration of altitude, which lowers temperatures by about 5 degrees C per 1,000 metres, and of marine influences which give cooler summers and warmer winters near most of the coastline and especially on the west coast.The seasonal difference between mid-summer and mid-winter temperatures is quite large at 18 degrees C in the inland areas and about 14 degrees C on the coasts. Differences between day maximum and night minimum temperatures are also quite large especially in the inland areas in summer. These differences are in winter 8 degrees C to 10 degrees C on the lowlands and 5 degrees C to 6 degrees C on the mountains increasing in summer to 16 degrees C in the central plain and 9 degrees C to 12 degrees C elsewhere.In July and August the mean daily temperature ranges between 29 degrees C on the central plain and 24 degrees C on the costal range, while the average maximum temperature for these months ranges between 36 degrees C and 31 degrees C respectively. In January the mean daily temperature is 10 degrees C on the central plain and 12 degrees C on the costal range with an average minimum temperature of 5 degrees C and 9 degrees C respectively. Frosts are rarely severe but are frequent in winter and spring inland and sometimes affect the economically important production of early vegetable crops and main citrus.
In the open sea, temperatures rise to 27 degrees C in August and are above 22 degrees C during the six months from June to November. During the three coolest months, January to March, average sea temperature falls only to 16 degrees C or 17 degrees C. Near all coasts, in water three or four metres deep, temperatures are very similar to those of the open sea and lie within the range 15 degrees C to 17 degrees C in February and 23 degrees C to 28 degrees C in August.There is no significant daily change of sea water temperature except on the coast in very shallow waters of less than one metre depth.
Seasonal change in mean soil temperatures is from about 10 degrees C in January to 33 degrees C in July at 10 centimetres depth and from 14 degrees C to 28 degrees C at one metre. Absorption of large amounts of solar energy during the day and high radiation losses with clear skies at night cause a wide daily range of soil temperatures in summer. At the soil surface the daily variation on a typical July day in the lowlands is between 15 degrees C near dawn to about 60 degrees C in mid afternoon. At only 5 centimetres depth the variation is reduced to between 24 degrees C and 42 degrees C and at 50 centimetres depth there is no daily temperature change.
Relative Humidity of the Air
Elevation above mean sea level and distance from the coast have considerable effects on the relative humidity which to a large extent are a reflection of temperature differences. Humidity may be described as average or slightly low at 65% to 95% during winter days and at night throughout the year. Near midday in summer it is very low with values on the central plain usually a little over 30% and occasionally as low as 15%. Fog is infrequent and usually confined to the early mornings but there are longer periods in the mountains in winter when cloud often envelopes the highest peaks. Visibility is generally very good or excellent but on a few days each spring the atmosphere is very hazy with dust brought from the Arabian and African deserts.
All parts of TRNC enjoy a very sunny climate. In the central plain and eastern lowlands the average number of hours of bright sunshine for the whole year is 75% of the time that the sun is above the horizon. Over the whole six summer months there is an average of 11.5 hours of bright sunshine per day whilst in winter this is reduced only to 5.5 hours in the cloudiest months, December and January. Even on the mountains the cloudiest winter months have an average of nearly 4 hours of bright sunshine per day and in June and July the figure reaches 11 hours.
Over the eastern Mediterranean generally surface winds are mostly westerly or southwesterly in winter and northwesterly or northerly in summer. Usually of light or moderate strength, rarely reaching of that of gale force.Over the island of Cyprus winds are quite variable in direction with orography and local heating effects playing a large part in the determination of local wind direction and strength. Differences of temperature between sea and land which are built up daily in predominant periods of clear skies in summer cause considerable sea and land breezes. Whilst these are most marked near the coasts they regularly penetrate far inland in summer reaching the capital, Lefkosa and often bringing a welcome reduction of temperature and also an increase in humidity.
Gales are infrequent over TRNC but may occur especially on exposed coasts with winter depressions. Small whirlwinds are common in summer appearing mostly near midday as "dust devils" on the hot dry central plain. Very rarely vortices, approaching a diameter of 100 metres or so and with the characteristics of water spouts at sea and of small tornadoes on land, occur in thundery weather. Localised damage caused by these has been reported on a few occasions but in general Cyprus suffers relatively little wind damage