The northern parallel mountain ranges of the Saharan Tell or Maritime Atlas, comprising coastal massifs and inland ranges, and the Saharan Atlas divide Algeria into three longitudinal zones running generally eastwest: the Mediterranean zone; the high plateaus; and the Sahara which covers some 85% of the entire area. About half of Algeria is 914 m (3,000 ft) or more above sea level, and about 70% of the area is from 762 m (2,500ft) to 1675m (5,500 ft) in elevation. The lowest point is Chott Melrhir -40m and the highest Tahat at 3,003m.
Only the main rivers of the Tell have water all year round, and even then the summer flow is small. None of the rivers are navigable. The mountainous areas of the High Plateaus are poorly watered; most of the rivers and streams flow irregularly, since they depend an erratic rainfall for water. In the High Plateaus lie many salt marshes and dry or shallow lakes. Further south, the land becomes increasingly arid, merging into the completely dry Sahara desert.
Northern Algeria lies within the temperate zone. Its climate is similar to that of other Mediterranean countries, although the diversity of the relief provide sharp contrast in temperature. The coast region has a pleasant climate, with winter temperatures from 10°c to 12°c (50° – 54°F) and summer temperatures from 24°C to 26°C (75°F-79°F). Rainfall in this region is abundant – 15 to 27 inches per year except for the area around Oran, where mountains form a barrier against rain-carrying winds. When heavy rains fall (often more than an inch and a half within 24 hours), they flood large areas and then evaporate so quickly that they are of little help in cultivation.
Further inland the climate changes, winters average 4°-6°C (39°-43°F, with considerable frost, and occasional snow on the massifs; summers average 26°-28°C (79°-82°F). In this region, prevailing winds are westerly and northerly in winter and easterly and northeasterly in summer, resulting in an increase in precipitation from September to December, and a decrease from January to August, with little or no rainfall in the summer months.
In the Sahara, temperatures range from 20°c to 34°C (14°-93°F), with extreme highs reaching 49°C (120°F). There are daily variations of more than 44°C (80°F). Winds are frequent and violent. Rainfall is irregular and unevenly distributed.
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Source: The Africa Guide