Europe is a vast continent that has at least as many weather zones as it has countries. A generalized statement about weather and climate in Europe thus cannot be made. In a broadest possible assessment, four basic climate zones in Europe can be defined:
- Mediterranean: A narrow band along the Mediterranean coast experiences warm to hot summers and mild winters with lots of sunshine and comparatively little precipitation. These conditions can be found in Greece, Albania and parts of Croatia, Italy, Southern France and most of Spain and Portugal. The climatic prerequisites have made these countries sought-after vacation spots
- Western Europe: Characterized by moderate summers and winters with precipitation throughout the year, this climate zone stretches over France, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Luxemburg and the Netherlands as well as over the Western halves of Germany and Denmark. The weather in this zone is usually comfortable, not too hot or too cold.
- Northern Europe: The climate in Scandinavia and the Northern half of Russia is marked by generally lower temperatures including cold summers and harsh winters. This applies to Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Iceland is an exception, the climate there is characterized as being of a polar quality.
- Central and Eastern Europe: By far the largest climate zone in Europe stretches from Eastern Germany, Austria and Switzerland across all of Central and Eastern Europe all the way to the Southern half of Russia. Summers in this zone are mild, comparable to the Western climate zone, but winters usually see significantly more snow.
Of course, these are just very generalized distinctions. Factors like sea level, nearby mountains or large bodies of water can impact the weather at any given place and there are pockets with distinct climate zones in almost all European countries.
As far as temperatures are concerned, these are a good indication of what to expect when traveling to Europe. For example, the average July temperatures in the Mediterranean zone are above 30°C, while at the same time they hardly make it past the 20°C mark in Great Britain or Scandinavia. In winter, average temperatures linger at around 0°C in Northern, Central and Eastern Europe, while Portugal, Spain, Malta, Italy and Greece typically still enjoy an average of more than 12°C.
Consequently, these areas also often see the most sunshine per year. Southern Sain is the record-holder in that regard, with almost 3,000 annual hours of sunshine – notably only a little more than half of that is measured in Northern Spain. But don’t let rely on average temperatures alone: Stockholm, Helsinki and Talinn all have more annual sunshine on average than Milan, Zurich or Paris.
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