Climate and Weather in Europe
Europe is the second smallest continent in terms of area, covering around 11,100,000 square kilometers or 2% of the surface of planet Earth and around 6.8% of total landmass. It houses a large number of sovereign states, the exact number of which depends on the definition of the border of Europe, as well as the exclusion or inclusion of partially recognized states. Of all the European countries, Russia is the largest in both area and population, while the Vatican is the smallest. Europe is the fourth most populous continent after Asia, Africa and America with a population of 735,000,000 or around 11% of the world’s population. See list of countries in Europe.
Northern Europe climate
The weather in all countries of Northern Europe is directly or indirectly influenced by the Gulf Stream, which transports its warmth to the coasts of Iceland and Norway.
Compared to other regions of the same latitude, the climate in the west and south of Iceland, on the Faroe Islands and on the Atlantic coast of Norway up to the Arctic Circle is surprisingly mild. It belongs to the temperate climate zone and is very maritime.
In the mild winters, the average temperatures are around freezing point and ensure ice-free coasts. The summer is 11-17 ° C rather cool and rainy. The entire year, coat much precipitation. It is to be expected with 1,000-3,000 mm.
In the Scandinavian Mountains, which stretch from southwest to northeast through the Scandinavian peninsula, short, cool summers and very cold, long and snowy winters dominate. The amount of precipitation is very high with 2,000-4,000 mm in the west and still around 1,000 mm in the east.
The Scandinavian Mountains act as a climatic divide in Northern Europe. It keeps the humid, mild air masses from the Atlantic. East of the mountains, the climate therefore takes on continental characteristics with large temperature differences between the seasons. The winters here are cold. Medium temperatures well below freezing point are completely normal. The summers, on the other hand, are quite mild. In July the average temperature is 16-17 degrees. In the rain shadow of the Scandinavian Mountains, comparatively little precipitation falls with 500-700 mm.
The north of Sweden and Finland have sub-polar climates. The winter is with average temperatures from -12 to -14 ° C very cold. Temperatures below -40 degrees are reached again and again. The summer is short, changeable and having an average of 12-14 ° C cool. In this region of Scandinavia, too, it is quite dry with 500 mm of precipitation annually.
The Scandinavian Mountains, on the other hand, have hardly any impact on the climate in Denmark and southern Sweden. There is a moderate climate with moderately warm summers and rather mild winters. Only in January and February can the average temperatures drop below freezing point. The mean values in summer are 16-18 ° C.
With 800-1,000 mm annually, the areas on the Kattegat coast are quite humid. In Denmark the amount varies between 700-800 mm in the west and 500-600 mm in the east. The prevailing westerly winds in autumn mean that occasional violent storms hit the region.
Best travel time for Northern Europe
The optimal travel time for Northern Europe / Scandinavia is the summer from the end of May to the beginning of September. At this time it is warm and the days are long.
However, there is a severe mosquito plague, especially in the north, in June and July. In addition, many Scandinavians go on holiday from the end of June to mid-August and the accommodations can be fully booked without making an early reservation.
If you want to come to Northern Europe because of the Northern Lights, you should note the phase from November to February.
The best travel time for winter sports enthusiasts is March. Then the days are longer again, the temperatures are no longer that low, but there is still a lot of snow on the slopes and in the cross-country trails.
For everyone else, winter is unsuitable for traveling. During short nights and low temperatures, numerous roads are closed, most of the accommodations are closed and the sights often only have limited opening times.
Central Europe climate
Central Europe is almost entirely in the temperate climate zone. Exceptions are the Alps and the higher elevations of the Czech Republic, which have a mountainous climate.
The north and west of Central Europe are influenced by the maritime climate in Western Europe, the south and east by the continental climate of Eastern Europe. As a result, the temperature fluctuations in the course of the year are lower in the western parts than in the eastern regions. Here the winters are colder and the summers warmer and drier than in the west. Another important climate factor is the warm Gulf Stream, which ensures a comparatively high temperature level.
The average annual temperature in Central Europe is 7-11 degrees. The average values usually increase from northwest to southeast. The Upper Rhine Graben is also particularly warm, with an average of over 11 ° C.
The mountain regions have a significantly harsher climate. They are characterized by short, cool and humid summers and long, very cold, rainy winters. Above 2,000 m, the annual mean values are even below freezing point.
The winter months in Central Europe are often foggy and cold. Average temperatures below freezing point then occur in large areas; only in the north-west and along the Rhine is the weather milder, even in winter.
The summer months from June to August are the warmest. Average temperatures of 17-20 ° C are then reached. Daytime temperatures above 30 ° C are then not uncommon in many regions, if not permanent. The highest values are usually measured in the Upper Rhine Plain and in the far east.
The mean annual amount of precipitation in Central Europe is 800 mm. The amount varies greatly from region to region. In the Alps, 1,500-3,000 mm come down from the sky every year, in the low mountain ranges it is 700-1,200 mm. The lowlands get 500-800 mm, while those in the rain shadow of high mountain ranges are often only 450-600 mm. Generally speaking, the humidity decreases from west to east. In winter it falls in the mountains, in the east and south often in the form of snow. The summer months are generally the wettest. But vacationers always have to be prepared for precipitation and changeable weather. Responsible for this are the westerly winds, which can bring humid air masses from the Atlantic all year round.
In the Alps and their foothills, the foehn, a warm, dry fall wind, plays a major role all year round. If it blows, the thermometer can rise by around 10 degrees within a short time. The north, on the other hand, is repeatedly hit by storm lows in the autumn and winter months.
Best travel time for Central Europe
The best travel time for Central Europe is from June to August. Then the flatlands have the highest temperatures of the year with an average of 17-20 degrees. Especially in the east and south-east there are longer periods of good weather with lots of sun during this phase. In the north and west, on the other hand, low foothills can repeatedly run through with rain.
If you don’t want to be outdoors all the time during your visit to Central Europe, May and September are also a good option.
If you are looking for snow, you will find it in the low mountain ranges and the Alps in winter. The ski season in the winter sports areas of Central Europe lasts from December to February and also includes March in the Alps and the Giant Mountains.
Western Europe climate
Western Europe mainly belongs to the humid-temperate climate zone, but also has shares in other climatic regions in the south and in the high mountains.
Humid and temperate climate
The areas north of the Loire are humid and temperate. The mean annual temperature here is between 7 degrees in Scotland and up to 12 degrees on the English and French Atlantic coasts. The climate in this zone is strongly influenced by the relatively warm Atlantic, which has a balancing effect on the temperature. Differences between day and night and between summer and winter are therefore very small in Western Europe.
The winter months are mild. The mean temperatures in the coldest month of January fluctuate between slightly minus degrees in the Scottish Highlands and eight degrees on the south coasts of England and Ireland. Snowfalls – apart from higher altitudes – only rarely occur. The summer months, on the other hand, remain relatively cool. The thermometer then fluctuates between 14 ° C in Scotland and Ireland and 20 ° C in northern France.
It is typical of the temperate zone of Western Europe that the western parts, which are directly exposed to the humid air masses from the Atlantic, are always significantly more precipitated than the eastern regions. The south and west of Ireland and the Scottish Highlands get around 3,000 mm of moisture per year, while Alsace and the south-east of Great Britain and the Netherlands only receive 500-650 mm. With precipitation must all seasons are expected. The fall and winter months can be stormy and foggy.
South of the Loire, in the Aquitaine Basin, the transition from the temperate to the Mediterranean climate takes place. The winters are humid and very mild, the summers warm and sunny, but not nearly as dry as in the Mediterranean.
On the Mediterranean coast and in the Rhone Valley from Lyon there is a subtropical Mediterranean climate. These areas have the highest temperatures in Western Europe with an average of 16 ° C. The summers are hot and dry, the winters very mild and humid.
The Vosges, the Alps and the Pyrenees have an alpine climate with cold winters and cool summers. With 1,500-1,700 mm annually, these regions are quite humid.
The duration of sunshine increases in Western Europe from north to south; because the climate is less and less influenced by the Atlantic foothills, which cause changeable weather and lots of clouds. If in the west of Scotland there are sometimes less than 1,000 hours of sunshine a year, in the Netherlands it is between 1,450 and 1,650. The Mediterranean and the French Atlantic coast have more than 2,500 hours of sunshine annually.
Best travel time for Western Europe
The months from May to September are clearly recommended for city tours or a round tour. Then the temperatures are pleasant and the days are long.
However, visitors should keep in mind that Western European summer is often the wettest time of the year, apart from the south of France. In addition, the tourist high season is in July and August. Many attractions are overcrowded and accommodation prices are high.
A beach holiday is available on the Mediterranean from May to October, while the somewhat cooler Atlantic coast is recommended from June to September. The coasts on both sides of the canal are only ideal for beach holidaymakers in June and July.
Only the mountains in France from December to April and the Scottish Highlands from December to February are suitable for winter sports.
Eastern Europe climate
Eastern Europe has a wide range from subpolar climates in northern Russia to subtropical conditions on the Black Sea.
The subpolar zone is characterized by extreme contrasts between short, cool summers and long, very cold winters. The average temperatures are only four to five months a year above freezing point, with the warmest months having an average of over 10 degrees. In winter, on the other hand, values of -35 ° C are completely normal.
The continental climatic zone, which includes most of Eastern Europe, begins south of St. Petersburg. In these regions, too, the temperature differences between summer and winter are very large. The further east you go, the greater the seasonal fluctuations and the more the mean temperatures decrease. This is mainly due to the significantly colder and longer winters there, with average values in the double-digit minus range. But even further west, the mean freezing point is never exceeded anywhere between November and March. The warm summers With average temperatures of 17-20 degrees in this zone, however, the values are pretty uniform everywhere.
The Baltic Sea exerts a milder influence in the Baltic States as well as in northern and western Poland. Therefore, these regions are still assigned to the temperate climate zone. The winters are not quite as cold, but they are still frosty. The summer will be with average values of 16 to 17 degrees less hot than further east.
On the Black Sea coast there is a Mediterranean climate (Mediterranean climate). Here, temperatures of 20-24 degrees are reached on average during the summer. In winter, in contrast to all other regions in Eastern Europe, the average temperature remains well above freezing point.
In large parts of Eastern Europe, the amount of precipitation is comparatively low, as humid air masses from the west do not reach these regions regularly. It decreases more and more from west to east. At the Caspian Sea on the border with Asia, only 150 mm fall. In the steppe zone in southern Moldova and Ukraine, between 250 and 450 mm are measured. In large parts of the Eastern European lowlands it is 500-750 mm. The annual rainfall in the Carpathian Mountains, on the other hand, is between 1,200-1,700 mm humid.
The further north you go, the greater the proportion of snow in the annual precipitation. In the summer falls in Eastern Europe, the most precipitation moist Atlantic air since then far to the east is transported. Only the subtropical Black Sea coast and the south of Ukraine receive their maximum precipitation in winter.
Best travel time for Eastern Europe
The best travel time for large parts of Eastern Europe is the summer months between the beginning of June and the end of August. With long days and warm temperatures averaging often over 20 degrees, the conditions are ideal for sightseeing and all kinds of summer outdoor activities.
Only to the Ukraine is it better to travel between the end of April and the beginning of June, as it can get hot after that.
In contrast, a visit during the uncomfortable winter months is not advisable. Short, cloudy days, permafrost and snow then determine the weather. Many sights are also closed.
For winter sports fans are the second half of February and March recommended. Then the days are longer again and the temperatures don’t drop that low, but there is still a lot of snow.
Southeast European climate
Southeast Europe is at the transition from the Mediterranean to the continental climate zone. Surrounded on three sides by the sea, its influence is rapidly decreasing due to the shielding mountains from the coast to the interior. The climate is already at a short distance from the coast by stronger continental climate marked.
Southeast Europe can be divided into three climatic zones.
There is a subtropical Mediterranean climate along the coasts of the Adriatic, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Hot and dry summers are contrasted with mild and humid winters. The mean summer temperatures are around 25-30 degrees; the winter values are 8-12 ° C. From June to September the sea in the subtropical zone of Southeast Europe reaches pleasant bathing temperatures of 24-28 ° C.
Heavy downdrafts occur all year round on the Adriatic. The precipitation in the subtropical zone of Southeast Europe ranges between 300 and 1,000 mm.
In the higher elevations of the mountains, the alpine climate dominates. In addition to short, cool summers with average temperatures of 15 degrees, there are cold, long winters. Then temperatures well below freezing and lots of snow are normal. The average values are only slightly positive at 3-7 ° C. The mountains are the wettest regions not only in southern Europe, but on the entire continent. The Dinaric Mountains along the Adriatic receive up to 5,000 mm annually. The Carpathians and the Tatras get 1,000-2,000 mm.
The plains of the Balkan peninsula has a continental climate. The summers are warm with average temperatures of 20-26 degrees. Peak values of up to 40 ° C occur again and again. The winters, on the other hand, are cold with averages below freezing. The further you get away from the coast, the greater the temperature contrasts between summer and winter.
With rainfall has the whole year are expected. A focus, however, is in the west and north in summer, in the south and east between April and June. The amount of precipitation decreases from west to east. While it is 650-900 and 800-1,000 mm in the interior of Croatia and in western Hungary, only 400-600 mm are measured in eastern Romania. During the winter months, precipitation falls as snow almost everywhere.
Best travel time for Southeast Europe
The best time to travel to Southeast Europe depends on the activity you plan to do.
Those planning a beach vacation should opt for the hot, dry and sunny summer months from June to September. The water temperatures are highest in these months with up to 28 degrees. However, in July and August, many seaside resorts are overcrowded and prices are high. It is therefore best to choose June or September.
For winter sports enthusiasts, there are good snow conditions in the mountains from December to March. February and March are more preferable than December and January, as it is then no longer quite as cold and the days are longer again.
As times for sightseeing tours are spring and autumn months suitable. Then the temperatures have not yet reached the hot summer values, but are no longer as low as in winter.
The warmer months from June to September are the ideal choice for trekking tours and hikes in the mountains.
Southern Europe climate
Southern Europe has a share of five climate zones.
On the north coast of the Iberian Peninsula, the climate is temperate, very balanced and humid. Winter and summer are both mild. Temperatures below freezing as well as above 30 degrees rarely occur. In autumn and winter the sky is often overcast or fog drifts in. In the north there is an average of 1,200 mm of precipitation. Although most of the rain falls in the winter months, it must be expected in all seasons.
In the Po Valley and the northern Apennines, the transition from moderate to subtropical climates takes place. The annual average temperature is 11 degrees. In the warm summers, values of more than 30 ° C are completely normal. They face cool winters. Frost and snow are quite possible. The peaks of rainfall are reached in autumn and spring. At 1,000 mm, it gets a lot of moisture every year.
In the highlands in the center of the Iberian Peninsula, the climate has a strongly continental impact with temperature differences of 20 degrees between summer and winter, but also between day and night. Most of the annual rainfall of 300-600 mm falls here in the wet winter half-year. Snow is quite possible here. In Madrid, in the center of the highlands, the temperature averages five degrees in the coldest month of January. The highlands heat up strongly in summer. With average temperatures of 24-28 degrees and peaks above 40 ° C, there is hardly any rain for months.
Subtropical Mediterranean climate
The subtropical zone around the Mediterranean Sea and on the southern Atlantic coast is characterized by hot, dry summers and mild, humid winters. In the hottest months of July and August, average temperatures of 25-30 degrees are reached. Maximum temperatures of over 40 ° C are regularly measured during the day. During the winter the average values are 10-15 degrees. The precipitation falls mostly from October to April. In the summer from June to August, visitors are unlikely to see a drop of rain see. The amount of precipitation decreases significantly from north to south. For example, while Barcelona receives 640 mm per year, in Almeria it is only 196 mm.
The mountain regions (Alps, Pyrenees, Abruzzo, Sierra Nevada) have an alpine climate with long, cold winters and short, cool summers. The mountains are very humid and receive up to 3,000 mm of precipitation annually.
From May to October, the Mediterranean coasts of southern Europe have bathing temperatures of over 20 degrees. The Atlantic coast, on the other hand, is significantly cooler and only occasionally suitable for bathing, even in midsummer.
Best travel time for southern Europe
There are suitable destinations for travelers to southern Europe in every season.
Winter sports enthusiasts get their money’s worth in the ski centers in the mountain regions from December to March.
Conversely, those who already is early in the year after sun longs, which are Sicily, Andalusia and the Algarve in March recommended. Then it is already 20 degrees warm there.
The warm but not too hot months of April and May as well as September and October are recommended for visiting the numerous sights of southern Europe.
Beach holidaymakers and sun worshipers are best off to southern Europe from June to September. With hot temperatures, warm water and dry weather there is pure sun.
Hiking tours in the cooler mountains are available between May and October.
Also see Abbreviation Finder for a list of abbreviations and acronyms of all countries in the continent of Europe.