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Weather in Russia and Ukraine

If you are a foreigner, and you have never been to Russia, there is a good chance you find Russian climate intimidating. Across the world Russia seems to invariably be pictured as a god-forsaken land, swept by fierce winds, and snowed all over. What makes the matter even worse is that this image is widely promoted by mass media and filmmakers. So if you are going to Russia, but are still firmly convinced that Russia is a place with arctic climate let me dispel your fears. Actually Russia spans climatic zones ranging from arctic to subtropical.

To be completely honest, however, Russia does happen to be a host to the coldest regions on Earth, which is probably why it won the reputation for being such a cold country. I am talking about Eastern Siberia, and particularly Verkhoyansk, a city in its northeast. There, temperatures average -51° C (-59° F), and fall as low as -70°C (-90°F) in February. There is a reasonable explanation for such extremes. A big chunk of Russian territory has continental climate. Which means it is located far inland, away from the moderating influences of the oceans. As a rule, the more continental an area’s climate is, the more divergent and distinct its seasons are and the greater its absolute temperature range is. Note that Siberian climate is severely continental. That explains why it is so cold there in winter, and for the most part so hot in summer. In the already mentioned Verkhoyansk, for example, July temperatures reach 37° C (98° F), which makes its absolute temperature range 105° C (188° F). And that is the greatest temperature range in the world. For the mostly populated part of Siberia, however, the climate is not so extreme, and due to low winds, even at -40° C (-40° F) it’s quite bearable.

The European part of Russia, where Moscow and Saint Petersburg are located, is more moderate in its weather. Here the climate too is continental, but is more maritime due to the closeness of the Black sea and the Baltic sea. That is why the weather there is milder, though it can still get pretty cold in winter when the north winds bring in arctic air. In this central part of Russia the average temperature in January is about -11°C (12°F), but with the north winds it can stay -30°C (-22°F) for several days at a time. In July and January Moscow averages 21°C (71°F) and -12° C (10°F)respectively. In the transitional seasons of spring and fall the temperatures hover around 10°C (50°F). The overall climate picture in Saint Petersburg, is similar to that of Moscow’s. Because the city is situated further north, its weather should understandably be cooler. However, the Baltic Sea, being in direct proximity to Saint Petersburg, smoothes out the difference. Saint Petersburg’s average temperature rises to a 17° C (63° F) in summer and goes down to a -10° C (14° F) in winter. In spring and fall the temperatures average a 7°С (45°F). The difference in rainfalls between Moscow and Saint Petersburg is not too pronounced either. Built on marshes, Saint Petersburg is very humid in its nature, to begin with. Its maritime and somewhat Londonish climate reveals itself further through its fairly high level of annual precipitation of 634mm (25in). In Moscow the precipitation rate is even higher – 690 mm (27 in). While precipitation is rather evenly distributed throughout the year in the European part of Russia, most of it comes in spring with rains. The amount of rainfalls gradually decreases towards the south of Russia and the Ukraine, where such cities as Samara, Volgograd, Rostov, Odessa, and etc. are located.

The Ukrainian climate is predominantly temperately continental with a Mediterranean patch in Crimea, a region on the coast of the Black Sea. The Ukrainian climate bears some similarity to France. Kiev has even been unofficially dubbed “the Ukrainian Paris” by meteorologists and geographers. In terms of precipitation, Kiev is characterized by an average 615 mm. (24.2 in.) of annual rainfalls (compared to the scarce 300 mm (12 inches) in the south of the country). Most of this precipitation comes with daily showers during late fall. As regards its average temperatures, it gets as warm as 20° C (68° F) in Kiev in summer and as cold as -6° C (21° F) in winter.

The northwestern neighbors, including the Baltic States, share similar climatic features among themselves. Due to the proximity of Baltic Sea they have cool but mild climate. Vilnus’s (Lithuania), Riga (Latvia), Talinn (Estonia), and Minsk (Belarus) all have temperature average of about -5°C (23°F) in January and 17°C (63°F) in July.