Index


Introduction



The European part of Russia is the one located to the west of the Ural Mountains; because of its size, it has different types of climate, but almost everywhere winter is freezing, while summer is moderately rainy.

The main climatic zones are the following:
- the arctic and subarctic climates in the far north, with only a long freezing winter and a brief cold summer, during which the average temperature remains below 10 °C (50 °F);
- the continental climate in inland areas, with freezing winters, while summers are progressively warmer as you move southwards;
- the moderately continental climate (or Baltic climate) in the western region, with freezing winters, though more temperate than in the interior, and mild summers; in summer, there are frequent rains, possible thunderstorms in the afternoon and cool nights;
- the arid continental climate in the Pontic-Caspian steppe region, with cold winters, hot summers and low annual rainfall;
- finally, the Mediterranean climate on the coast bordering the Black Sea, with mild and rainy winters and warm and sunny summers.

Proceeding from west to east, there is typically an increase in continentality (especially with regard to the winter cold) and a decrease in precipitation.

Russia is the cold country par excellence: apart from the climatic differences, the common feature of most of the country is the winter cold.
The European side is not as cold as the Asian one, yet the lowest temperatures of the European continent are recorded here.

Owing to the absence of major mountain ranges (excluding the Caucasus in the south), this country is exposed to different influences, warm and cold, so the climate is characterized by a chronic instability. The influence of air masses from the Atlantic Ocean is not remarkable, though they can sometimes bring a wet and mild weather; from the Arctic Ocean, the blizzard is able to bring dreadful snow storms in winter; from Siberia, frigid air masses in winter may arrive, while from Central Asia, in summer warm winds can blow, called Sukhoviei.

The only area with a mild climate, sheltered from the winter frost, is the southern coast of the Black Sea, where the climate is almost Mediterranean, with mild and rainy winters and warm and sunny summers, during which, however, strong thunderstorms occur.

The north



Northern European Russia, map

Franz Josef Land

On the northernmost islands of Russia (see Franz Josef Land), the climate is Arctic, with an average temperature in the coldest months (which at high latitudes are February and March) around -23 °C (-9 °F), so it is colder than in the Svalbard Islands (which belong to Norway), while the average in the warmest month (July) is around 1 °C (34 °F).
Here are the average temperatures of the Franz Josef Land, at 80 degrees north latitude.
Franz Joseph L. - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)-25-25-26-22-11-30-1-4-12-19-24
Max (°C)-20-20-21-16-7021-2-9-15-20
Min (°F)-13-13-15-8122732302510-2-11
Max (°F)-4-4-631932363428165-4

Novaya Zemlya

South of Franz Josef Land, on the islands of Novaya Zemlya, which separates the Barents Sea from the Kara Sea, the climate is Arctic in the northern tip, where the average in July is still around 1 °C (34 °F), while it becomes progressively milder as you move south. In Malye Karmakuly, in the south-central area, the climate is subarctic, with about 4 months above freezing (0 °C or 32 °F), namely from June to September, when, however, the average temperatures remains below 10 °C (50 °F). In inland areas, especially on the northern island, there are hills, where perennial snows are found already at a few hundred meters above sea level. Here are the average temperatures of Malye Karmakuly, at 72 degrees north latitude.
Malye Karmakuly - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)-16-17-14-13-61552-3-9-13
Max (°C)-12-12-10-7-2410950-6-9
Min (°F)3179213441413627169
Max (°F)101014192839504841322116

Along the northern coasts of mainland Russia, which border the Barents Sea, the climate is subarctic, with a long, cold winter and a cold summer, which lasts three to four months. The Barents Sea remains ice-free even in winter because the last branch of the Gulf Stream arrives here. The average temperatures in winter are around -5 °C (23 °F) in the western part of the Kola Peninsula and decrease progressively towards the east, until they drop to about -20 °C (-4 °F) in the eastern part (see Amderma). As we have said, along these coasts the summer is cold, with average daily temperatures rising a few degrees above freezing in the warmest months, during which highs are around 10/12 °C (50/54 °F).

In the north of Russia, at a certain distance from the sea or along the shores of bays and sheltered inlets, there is a large area where the climate is cold continental, with a long, cold winter (often colder than in the previous area because of the stronger continentality) and a cool or mild summer, when the maximum temperatures are close to 20 °C (68 °F).

Murmansk

For example, in Murmansk, in a fjord on the Kola Peninsula, the average temperature in January is -10 °C (14 °F), while in summer the temperature is steadily above freezing for about 5 months and a half, from May to mid-October, and the average maximum in July is around 17 °C (63 °F). Here are the average temperatures.
Murmansk - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)-13-13-9-4169840-7-11
Max (°C)-7-7-238141715104-2-5
Min (°F)9916253443484639321912
Max (°F)191928374657635950392823

Precipitation in Murmansk, not abundant, amounts to 480 mm (19 in) per year, with a minimum in winter and spring, when light snowfalls occur, and a summer maximum. Here is the average precipitation.
Murmansk - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)302020203055606555454035480
Prec.(in)1.20.80.80.81.22.22.42.62.21.81.61.418.9
Days9767710101111111010109

In Murmansk, the sun is practically absent in winter, also because of the very short days (from December 1st to January 10th, the sun does not even rise), while it has the chance to appear among the clouds for a few hours per day in spring and in summer (also because the days are very long, and from May 22nd to July 22nd the sun does not even set).
Murmansk - Sunshine
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Hours014668853200

Being sheltered from the Gulf Stream, the White Sea freezes during winter; along the coasts, in cities like Archangel and Onega, the average daily temperature in January are around -12/-13 °C (9/10 °F), while in summer the maximum temperature reaches on average 20/22 °C (68/72 °F).
Further east, in the vast plains of the Arkhangelsk Oblast and of the Komi Republic, there are areas where the lowest temperatures of the European continent have been recorded: -52 °C (-61.5 °F) in Vorkuta (in 1978), and -56 °C (-69 °F) in Pechora (in 1946).
Here are the average temperatures in Pechora, located at a latitude of 65 degrees north, about 380 km (240 miles) south of the Arctic coast.
Pechora - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)-23-21-14-8071184-3-14-20
Max (°C)-14-13-4310182217102-7-12
Min (°F)-9-67183245524639277-4
Max (°F)7925375064726350361910

Here, in summer the average maximum temperature is around 22 °C (72 °F), with short periods above 30 °C (86 °F). Precipitation is around 550/600 millimeters (22/24 inches) per year, and summer is the rainiest season (winter is too cold to have substantial precipitation, which is weak but frequent, in the form of light snow, for many months).

The big cities



Central European Russia, map
Further south, we enter a wide flat area that includes Moscow, St. Petersburg and the major cities of European Russia. This area has a continental climate, with cold winters, though the temperature remains below freezing for a shorter period than in the north. Summer is warm, and precipitation is frequent throughout the year, though with a summer maximum. In this vast area, the climate becomes progressively more continental as you move towards the east, mainly because of the colder winter; for instance, in Ufa, more than 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) east of Moscow, the average in January is -12 °C (10 °F), so it's a few degrees lower than in the capital (see below), while the summer it's slightly warmer.

Saint Petersburg

In St. Petersburg, the influence of the sea is not remarkable because the Gulf of Finland during winter is often frozen. In fact, winter is freezing: the average in February is -6 °C (22 °F), a bit higher than in Moscow. On the contrary, in the other seasons the maritime influence is evident, in fact the summer is mild, with highs around 21/23 °C (70/73 °F), and also humid and rainy. August is usually rainier than July. Occasionally, however, warm air masses from the continental area can arrive here as well (which is reminiscent of the hot and muggy St. Petersburg described by Dostoevsky). Here are the average temperatures.
St Petersburg - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)-8-8-42712151394-2-6
Max (°C)-3-329162023211592-2
Min (°F)181825364554595548392821
Max (°F)272736486168737059483628

In St. Petersburg, precipitation is not abundant during the long winter months, when it often occurs in the form of light but frequent snowfall, while it is more abundant in summer (August is the rainiest month). Here is the average precipitation.
St Petersburg - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)353030354550708065754550610
Prec.(in)1.41.21.21.41.822.83.12.631.8224
Days1412988881011121214126

The sea near Saint Petersburg is cold all year round, and as mentioned in winter it can freeze (seawater freezes at about -2 °C or 28.5 °F).
St Petersburg - Sea temperature
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp (°C)100148131513963
Temp (°F)343232343946555955484337

St. Petersburg

In the great Russian plains, in the past winter was colder: the average temperature in recent decades has increased by a few degrees, and cold waves from Siberia have become more rare.

Moscow

In Moscow, the capital, the average January temperature of the last 30 years is -7 °C (20 °F); the average daily temperature remains below freezing from November to March. Summer is warm, with a July average of 19 °C (74 °F), but sometimes it can get hot. In summer, there is a moderate amount of rainy days, while in periods of good weather, thunderstorms can break out in the afternoon. Here are the average temperatures.
Moscow - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)-9-10-42812141273-3-8
Max (°C)-4-4311192224221691-3
Min (°F)161425364654575445372718
Max (°F)252537526672757261483427

Kaliningrad

Outside of the main territory, in the west, between Poland and Lithuania, we find the small exclave of Kaliningrad (formerly Königsberg). Here, the climate is Baltic semi-continental, with cold winters, though less cold than in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and mild summers.
Kaliningrad - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)-4-4-137111413951-2
Max (°C)1261218202323181262
Min (°F)252530374552575548413428
Max (°F)343643546468737364544336

Precipitation in Kaliningrad amounts to 800 mm (31.5 in) per year, with a minimum in spring and a maximum in summer and autumn. Here is the average precipitation.
Kaliningrad - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)554045355570809090809075805
Prec.(in)2.21.61.81.42.22.83.13.53.53.13.5331.7
Days13910889111012111414129

The sun in Kaliningrad is rarely seen from November to February, while from May to August it shines for a decent number of hours (the days are very long, so the total amount of sunshine is not low).
Kaliningrad - Sunshine
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Hours124689875311

The Baltic Sea is very cool even in summer, however, the water temperature reaches 18 °C (64 °F) in August.
Kaliningrad - Sea temperature
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp (°C)43348131618161296
Temp (°F)393737394655616461544843

The south



Southern European Russia, map
In the southern region of Russia, in the plains between Ukraine and Kazakhstan, winters are still cold but shorter, while summers are hot. Owing to the scarcity of precipitation, in this area we find the steppe.
Already in Volgograd, where the average temperature in January is -6 °C (21 °F), in summer highs are normally around 29/30 °C (84/86 °F), but sometimes they can reach 40 °C (104 °F); annual precipitation amounts to only 350 millimeters (13.8 inches).

The only part of European Russia where the daily average in January exceeds freezing is the coast of the Black Sea. It should be noted, however, that in this area the winter is not mild everywhere: it's still cold in the Sea of Azov, where the average temperature in January is -0.5 °C (31 °F), while along the coast of the Black Sea it gradually increases, from 2.5 °C (37 °F) in Anapa, to 6.5 °C (43.5 °F) in Sochi, which is protected by the Caucasus mountains.

Sochi

So, the only really mild area is that of Sochi, and in fact this was the winter holiday resort for the members of the Soviet nomenklatura: while on the northern coast of the Black Sea some outbreaks of cold air are possible, in Sochi the northern wind blows as a warm and dry down-slope wind coming from the mountains. In summer, the temperature is high: the average in July and August is around 23/24 °C (73/75 °F).
Sochi - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)435913172020161386
Max (°C)101012172125272825201512
Min (°F)393741485563686861554643
Max (°F)505054637077818277685954

On the other hand, in this area it rains a lot all year round, even in summer, when showers and thunderstorms can occur in the afternoon. On the northern coast of the Black Sea, it rains less, and in summer only 30/40 mm (1.2/1.6 in) per month fall, compared with more than 100 mm (4 in) per month in Sochi. Here is the average precipitation in Sochi.
Sochi - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)1801251251151001051101251351651851951655
Prec.(in)7.14.94.94.53.94.14.34.95.36.57.37.765.2
Days171414161310889101417150

In Sochi, some sunny days can occur also in winter, while in summer the sky is often clear, especially in the morning (in the afternoon the sky can be covered by thunderclouds).
Sochi - Sunshine
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Hours345579998643

The sea temperature in Sochi is warm enough for swimming in summer, especially in July and August, when it reaches 24/25 °C (75/77 °F).
Sochi - Sea temperature
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp (°C)1099111621242523191511
Temp (°F)504848526170757773665952

In the Caspian Sea, the situation is quite different, and the climate is not so mild. Along the northern coast, the climate is semi-desert, with hot summers, when the daily average in July and August is around 24/25 °C (75/77 °F), and cold winters, with a January average of -3.5 °C (26 °F) in Astrakhan and -2 °C (28 °F) in Lagan' (formerly Kaspiyskiy). More to the south, along the coast of Dagestan, winter is progressively less cold and a little less arid, in fact the average in January reaches 2 °C (35.5 °F) in the southernmost part of Dagestan, near the border with Azerbaijan, more or less in the middle of the Caspian Sea (see Derbent).

Astrahan

Here are the average temperatures of Astrahan, a city located on the banks of the Volga River, near the northern coast of the Caspian Sea.
Astrakhan - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)-6-7-26121720181260-5
Max (°C)0181724293231241671
Min (°F)211928435463686454433223
Max (°F)323446637584908875614534

In Astrahan, precipitation amounts to only 215 mm (8.5 in). Here is the average precipitation.
Astrakhan - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)151015252020151525151515215
Prec.(in)0.60.40.610.80.80.60.610.60.60.68.5
Days43433333334440

In Astrakhan, the amount of sunshine is very good in late spring and summer, while in winter the sun does not shine often.
Astrakhan - Sunshine
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Hours345891111108632

In winter, the Caspian Sea in the Russian side is colder than the Black Sea, while in summer it becomes equally warm. Here is the sea temperature at Makhachkala, located in the central part of the Caspian Sea coast.
Makhachkala - Sea temperature
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp (°C)6448142024252318128
Temp (°F)433939465768757773645446

Between the two seas (the Caspian Sea is actually a huge salt lake), we find the aforementioned Caucasus Mountains, among which Mount Elbrus stands out with its 5,642 meters (18,510 feet). Here the climate varies with altitude and slope exposure, so it is cold and snowy at high altitudes, while at low altitudes, at the foot of the mountains, it is continental with cold winters. For instance, the January average in Grozny is -3 °C (27 °F). On the contrary, summers are warm or hot: the July average is 24 °C (75 °F) in Grozny, around sea level, and 20 °C (68 °F) in Vladikavkaz, at 650 meters (2,100 ft) above sea level.

Grozny

Here are the average temperatures of Grozny.
Grozny - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)-6-5-15111518171362-3
Max (°C)1391824283130251793
Min (°F)212330415259646355433627
Max (°F)343748647582888677634837

The western part of the Caucasus is more rainy (and more snowy in winter) than the eastern one. Precipitation in Grozny is not abundant, since it amounts to 440 mm (17.5 in) per year, and it's scarce in winter and relatively more abundant in late spring and summer. Here is the average precipitation.
Grozny - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)202025355570554535302525440
Prec.(in)0.80.811.42.22.82.21.81.41.21117.3
Days55557866566670

Best Time



The best time to visit most of European Russia is generally the summer (late May to early September in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and only July and August in the northernmost areas), which allows to avoid the discomfort of cold and bad weather, while in the southern regions (the Caspian Sea, the steppe areas, the foothills of the Caucasus), where the summer is hot, you may prefer May and September.

In St. Petersburg, even in summer there can be cool and rainy days; in June, here as in other areas located at high latitude, you can enjoy the famous white nights (when it never becomes completely dark).

In Moscow, where in winter the temperature can drop to -30 °C (-22 °F) and below, summer can sometimes be hot, with highs about 30 °C (86 °F) and even above; in the afternoon, there may be some thunderstorms, while sometimes days can be cool even in mid-summer, with maximum temperatures below 20 °C (68 °F).

The worst time in Russia is probably the thaw: unpaved roads are often impassable because of the mud caused by the melting snow. Depending on the area and the year, this phenomenon, called rasputitsa, occurs in different periods. In the Arctic, it occurs in summer, while in Moscow it usually occurs in late March or early April, and it lasts about a fortnight. The Russians prefer the winter frost to these cold and wet periods.

If you intend to visit Russia in its winter appearance, in the second half of February the days are longer and temperatures is often less cold, though still below freezing.

What to pack



In winter: it's necessary to bring cold weather clothing such as synthetic thermal long underwear, a fleece, a parka, a wind jacket, warm boots. For Sochi and the Black Sea: bring warm clothes, such as a sweater, a jacket, a raincoat or umbrella.

In summer: in Moscow and St. Petersburg, bring spring/autumn clothes, T-shirts and shorts for hot days, but also a jacket and a sweater for the evening and for cooler days; a raincoat or umbrella.
On the Arctic coasts and islands: bring warm clothes, such as a down jacket, a hat, gloves.
In the south, the coast of the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea: bring light clothing, a sweatshirt or a light jacket for the evening.