The Cretan Climate and Weather
The climate of Crete is probably the mildest in Europe. The strong, dry, north westerly wind, the meltemi, moderates even the hottest months of July and August. Rainfall is rare during the summer months. Autumn is Crete’s mildest season, when temperatures are often higher than in spring. Though winters are severely cold in the mountainous areas of the island, very seldom do temperatures along the coast go below freezing point. The mountains act as a obstacle to the weather, often creating different wind conditions in northern and southern Crete. On average each year there are approximately 300 sunny days along Crete’s northern shoreline while the southern Libyan Sea coast has over 320 sunny days each year.
The climate in Crete can be described as typically Mediterranean though even milder than most other Mediterranean places. Summer is hot and dry with sparse clouds and lots of sunshine. Even on the north coast which receives the cold prevailing winter winds coming from the mountains of the Balkans and the Black Sea, as a rule, the winds have become gentler by the time they reach Crete’s seashore. Inland, however, at high elevations, snow cover is normal from December till April or May.
Great differences exist between the coastal zones and the inland mountains. The same applies to how much winter rain there is in the western as compared to the eastern parts of Crete. The greenest part of the island is Crete’s western facing coastline. The mountains of the island form a north-south barrier hindering the prevailing northerly winds as they sweep across the Aegean and Cretan Seas. The result is that during the winter months it may be grey and wet in the north, but sunny on the south coast where often the clouds do not extend over the sea. The south coast can be affected by winds coming from the Sahara. On rare occasions for one or two days in some years in late autumn, spring or winter, these Saharan winds bring dusty conditions even to the north coast. In the summer, these Saharan winds are tempered by their passage across the Libyan Sea.
|Days of precipitation||Total height (mm)|
Cretan Weather Month By Month:
This month, most days, along the coastal areas of Crete, are sunny with temperatures reaching 18 degrees Centigrade or even higher. There can be a succession of two or even sometimes three day long cloudy, rainy, wind-swept periods during the course of the month. At these times, the coastal day time temperatures range between 7 and 12 degrees. But then, the storm will pass and there will be three or four sunny days before another storm hits the island, generally coming from the north. Some years, there is a seven to fourteen day period of sunny days in mid January called the Halcyon Days. Rarely the Halcyon Days occur in late December. Crete’s mountains are covered in snow and, inland, the night-time temperatures plummet to well below freezing point although along the coast it is very rare that the temperatures are below freezing point or that there is any snow.
During February, the stormy days can be just as or more frequent than in January. The mountains will certainly be covered in snow. Even along the coast, the night time temperatures can go down to only a few degrees above freezing. Usually, by the end of the month, Crete’s colourful display of spring flowers will begin to show themselves.
March’s weather on Crete is unpredictable. Some years, it may seem that summer has already arrived. Other years, March days are a succession of short, sharp showers, with bright sunny but wind-swept breaks between them. Some years, the two or three day periods of stormy weather, normal in January and February, can spill over into the first two weeks of March. The mountains will still be covered in snow but slowly the heat of the daytime sun will be melting the snow on the lower slopes. The quality of the Cretan light in late March, when the full colourful profusion of the island’s wild flowers is emerging, can take the breath away with its sheer beauty.
This month can show Crete at its best with, usually, infrequent rain showers, soft clear light and much warmer evenings and nights. Still, warmer clothing will be needed for the evenings but sitting out at any time of the day or evening on a veranda or a terrace now becomes the norm and will continue to be so through till October or November or even into December some years. Crete’s display of wild flowers is at its best across the countryside and on any open space in the island’s towns and villages.
During the early part of the month, the wild flowers are still blooming, but by the end of May, the warming Cretan sun has usually dried up most of them. Sea temperatures are becoming warmer, reaching 21 degrees by late May. The meltemia winds, also known as the etesian winds, have not yet started.
There may be a few cloudy days at the beginning of the month but it is getting hotter and the vegetation is becoming drier by the day. If there is any rain, it will be in the form of a short, sharp shower and will only occur usually during the first half of the month. By mid-June the last of the snow will have melted on the tops of the Lefka Ori (White Mountains) and Mount Idha. Throughout the summer months, there are the smells of Crete’s wild herbs being wafted on the breeze. Sea water temperatures are high enough for swimming to be a welcome relief from the heat of the sun.
|Water temperatures (Heraklio in °C)|
At some time during the first two weeks of July, the dry Meltemia (etesian) winds will start, (rarely, in some years, they will have already started in late June) thus lowering the humidity levels and coming as a great relief. Temperatures can reach up to 31 degrees on a normal July day. Some years, there may be a heat wave in July or August when temperatures can rise to 36 or 38 degrees, very rarely over 40, but usually, the Meltemia winds keep heat and humidity levels down to bearable levels. People flock to Crete’s beaches for relaxation and fun in the sea. The mountain areas are much drier than on the coast, with the same cooling breezes brought by the Meltemi winds.
August days continue like those in July, with sea breezes tempering the high temperatures.
There may be afternoon thunderstorms during the first week on September. The temperatures are slightly lower than in July and August. The sea with its warm temperature of 24 to 26 degrees still beckons. The Meltemia winds have now ceased and it can be chilly enough to need a jacket or pullover in the evenings.
One can expect days when it will be windy. On some days this month, there will be rain. However, many people consider this to be the best time of the year to explore Crete’s many archaeological attractions and inland scenic areas. If you are inland in the mountains, it is beginning to be decidedly cold in the evenings and at night. Along the coast, the warm daytime temperatures continue and warm clothes are seldom needed during the day.
November days can be perfect but, equally likely, there will be wet and windy days with maybe a storm coming in from the north and lasting for a day or two. During this month, there may be some days with south winds coming across the Libyan Sea from the Sahara desert, bringing dusty, hazy conditions.
|Heraklio Day & Night Monthly Average Temperatures in °C||12,4||13,2||13,6||15,7||20,2||25,9||26,4||26,1||24,5||18,9||14,4||14,0|
Like in November, there will be perfect sunny days with clear skies and with the famously translucent winter Cretan light. The mountain tops will be covered in snow. Also, expect some days of strong wind and rain storms to batter the island’s coastal areas, especially the north west. The western parts of the island will experience more rain that those in the east. But the south coast will offer you days when the sea is still warm enough for swimming.