Greece due to its location always has and had unpredictable weather patterns, this article will shed some light into the relative weather conditions such it will help you plan your hiking / mountaineering trips in Greece.
The weather here is known to be Mediterranean climate effected by time specific conditions and relative locations. Greece shows some general weather patterns by region (each region is about 1/4th of the country) but that is not specific enough.
General Weather Patterns
Since the Pindus mountains exist there exists a weather divide. We can mark the peak of Kakarditsa in the Athamanika mountains east of Ioannina as the middle most Pindus peak, being the natural weather barrier. In general all locations west of this peak get way more rainfall and a more humid, a great example is a comparison of an island in the Ionian sea with one in the Aegean. This happens due to the rain shadow effect
A graph of the rain shadow effect
The same effect can be seen with Sporades islands, due to the elevation of Dirfis mountain, Pilio mountain and the peaks of Profitis Hlias in both Tinos and Andros islands. Thus warm and humid storms heading westwards from the Aegean sea generally get blocked by these mountains and rarely reach Athens and the Lamia Plain.
This effect is finally seen in the Peloponnese peninsula as only some of its peaks (Profitis Hlias, Chelmos and Mainalo) thus its eastern peaks get way less rain and other east peaks remain dry as well.
So we can easily get that, the west is more humid and the east more arid.
Arid - Humid Map
In the following map we can see a scheme of summits and climate blockers (denoted with thin straight lines).
Enclosed within the purple block is a fully arid area that is enclosed from all the possible storms.
We can see here which areas are arid and which humid, and also we can see that Athens is enclosed by mountains only on three directions, that will be important later.
We can also see the blue block that is enclosed between the highest Peloponnese peaks and the high peaks of the Ionian islands, this area is not always arid as case specific storms can vary the humidity in the area.
Although the basic pattern seems quite black and white the climate is way more elaborate and we will further discus that in the following "chapters".
The climate of Greece as a whole is Mediterranean, so that is the general climate if you do not want to go any further. The climate changes though in many areas throughout Greece.
In the following map we can see a climate map of Greece. Everything that is not marked with a color is generally considered to be plain Mediterranean climate.
Denoted with Green are all the alpine climate locations in Greece, the most 'prominent' alpine climates are: Tripoli, Vikos, Evros and Karpenisi.
Denoted with Yellow are all temperate climates, this climate is designated by its humid and cold winters and the dry and hot summers, the weather is very prone to create thunderstorms.
Although these are very specific climates there is always a high chance that its snows in even the more southerns parts this is due to the fact that Greece is 80% mountains.
There are some very specific weather events that happen throughout Greece, these are sometimes season related, here they are.
Southern Hot Winds
Since Greece is the southern most country in the Balkans we understand that a south wind comes directly from Africa, thus southern winds are almost always warm and dry, they usually increase the temperature by a lot and thus during the winter these winds are concern for snow conditions, and during the summer these winds produce deadly heatwaves that can reach up to 43C. So we can also deduce that the more north your desired climb is the better during these winds.
Northern Cold Front
During the winter most storms are the 'Siberian' cold winds coming directly from the Eastern European Plains. These winds bring the cold dry storms that bring snow to Athens and generally the Eastern part of Greece.
Winds and Snowfall
Greece is known for its high winds and well, unpredictable snowfall. The highest winds usually come from either North (N) or East (E) although there can be high southern winds which most of the time only affect Crete. Winds from the west get blocked by the Pindus mountains. Thus understand that each area is affected by its specific wind.
The strongest winds are almost always northern or eastern (only during the winter) and western during the summer.
Each mountain has different snowfall patterns, the easiest way to understand where the snow is more windblown, thus where the snow will 'land' is simple. The wind almost always heads inwards from the sea, thus the snow will be in areas where that wind is blocked. So for example we understand that for Parnassos mountain the resort get snow with southern winds, since just south of the resort is a high peak and the sea.
It usualy starts snowing during mid -December with Dirfis getting the first snowfall. The snowfall continues and usualy the ski resorts open around new years, following that mid-January has the highest concentration of storms and the largest snowfall. The snow gets distributed evenly. The longest season is claimed by the mountain of Smolikas as it is very cold and gets large amounts of snowfall. If it snows that much then the snow might remain until late may.
During the summer Greece generaly has calm weather although the islands of the Aegean sea experience very strong winds after late July until early September.
The highest rain levels are experienced between late November and late April, after that the weather calms down to a more spring-ish weather and after May it becomes full blown summer.
There are many wired weather patterns that can be experienced in some of the mountains in Greece.
- Until late December mountains east of Chelmos in Peloponnese are quite arid,
- Dirfi west face is skiable from mid December,
- During early spring the weather in the Aegean islands is mainly stormy,
- The last snow-patches melt on Olympus during mid May,
- There are turns to be had until late May,
- The weather in the Vikos region is very unstable during the winter.
There are multiple locations known for their extreme winter conditions, these locations are usually 'boxed' with high mountains. Examples: Tripoli, Tsapelovo, Lake Volvi etc.
Snow at 2200m under Taygetos on June 16
Snow on the vikos river at 500m after a massive storm Jan 4
Snow under the summit of artemisio (1750m) Dec 11
Stormy Weather on Tinos island April