Climate

Extracted from Mary Jaqueline Tyrwhitt's excellent book "Making a Garden in the Greek Hillside".

JANUARY
January usually starts with really cold weather - our worst frosts have been between 4 and 10 January - and ends with a marvellous few days of halcyon weather. In between we have stormy days with driving rain and flooded roads interspersed with clear, cloudless days of bright sunshine and a midday temperature around 15°C.
The halcyon days in legend are the seven days preceding the winter solstice and the seven after it, during which time Aeolus forbids his winds to blow across the water so that the kingfisher (alkyon in Greek) can lay her eggs in peace on a floating, raft-like nest and hatch out her chicks. However, the halcyon days cannot be counted upon and the end of January and early February can be the coldest part of the winter.

FEBRUARY
February is a transition month climatically rather like September. The weather shifts from winter to spring and back again. We often have marvellous halcyon days at the beginning of the month and snow flurries at the end. The total precipitation in the month varies greatly. The average over the last five years has been 42.9 mm but in two years it was less than a third of this and in the other two years it was almost double.

MARCH
By March we know that spring has arrived, even if the weather is pretty chilly during the fist two weeks or so, as it usually is. Indeed, I have records of snow flurries and of really cold days. However, by the middle of the month one usually begins to shed a layer of clothing and to forget or omit to light the stove in the morning, though a wood fire in the evening generally remains welcome.

APRIL
The weather in April is tricky. There can be a series of summer-like days, with breakfast on the terrace and talk of putting up the hammock, and then a spell of cooler days when it is necessary to relight the stove or turn on the heating. If Easter falls early, it is nearly always accompanied by cool winds.

MAY
Although one knows that spring is over, the weather remains fairly unsettled until quite late in May. I have never had to relight the stove, but we have frequently been glad of a wood fire in the evening. On the other hand, by the end of the month even I, who do not like cold water, have had several bathes and I have usually started to sleep out on the front terrace as my bedroom has become too stuffy.

JUNE
I like to sleep out in the warm weather. It is marvellous to observe the clear, Greek, starlit sky. The earliest night it has been hot enough to encourage met to take a sleeping bag out onto the roof terrace was 6 June, and the latest 17 June. I now have an Indian string bed, a charpoy, that is heavy enough to be left out all year without getting blown away by winter storms.

JULY
The heat of July may be relieved by the occasional fairly cool evening or thunderstorm which is followed by one or two days of cooler weather. On the other hand, it is seldom oppressively hot as the meltemi has started to blow. This is a fresh (one can't actually say 'cool') wind that blows fairly constantly during the day. It comes from the north-east and usually dies down in the evenings. July evenings normally have a delightful temperature which proves ideal for eating and drinking in the open air.

AUGUST
The meltemi blows steadily almost every day - or perhaps unsteadily is more descriptive as it is a strong but very fitful wind - and this incessant turmoil tends to make one feel rather worn out. On the other hand, if there is no wind and the weather becomes still and humid, one inevitably becomes very listless. However, the evenings are always lovely. The temperature is just right for sitting out of doors, the wind has dropped, the cicadas are singing and the jasmine smells delicious. Soon after it has become dark, one may even need a wrap of some sort. Indeed, it is always wise to take a jacket, a shawl or a cardigan when going to a performance of the Athens Festival at the Herod Atticus theatre.
Normally on days when the meltemi is not blowing strongly, the day temperature moves between 33°C and 37°C, but when we have a strong meltemi all day, the day temperatures does not rise above 31°C and there tends to be only 5 to 7 degrees difference between day and night temperatures, instead of the usual 10 to 12 degrees.

SEPTEMBER
Early September is still summer and hot enough for bathing in the sea or in my swimming pool. In most years, we will have had our first rain before the Feast of the Life giving Cross on 14 September. By the end of the month there is often a second thunderstorm and the weather will quite suddenly turn cool. Stocking and pullovers become necessary and one begins to think of getting out carpets and even of lighting a wood fire in the evening. The cool spell may last for almost a week, but then the weather generally warms up and only stars to turn chilly again towards the end of October.

OCTOBER
October often starts with a few cold days which are dispelled by a thundershower, after which we get a spell of warm, sunny weather with midday temperatures up to 30°C (well over 80°F) and cool evenings around 19°C (just under 70°F). This is the little summer of St. Demetrios. But the weather usually changes fairly drastically around his feast day.

NOVEMBER
November is a variable month. The day temperature can soar into the mid-twenties centigrade or it can be - and frequently is - in the low teens. In the warm November of 1980, spring annuals and bulbs all shot too far ahead and many were cut back or killed by sharp frosts in January. On the positive side we enjoyed day after day of strong midday sunshine and blue skies, often streaked with white, wind-driven clouds.
There is a local saying that we need to have a good rain every ten days, and this is generally not wide of the mark.

DECEMBER
By December we know that winter has come. If we have not had the first, real, winter storms in November, we can expect one early in December. The sky darkens, sheet lighting flashes and the sky empties itself of rain, like an overturned bucket. It swirls down the hillside, filling the swimming pool with brick-red soup and rushing down our new concrete drive to flood the road into the village. Usually the storms end as suddenly as they started and we waken next day to a startlingly clear and still day, with everything glisteningly fresh and washed, an azure-blue sky and the outlines of distant islands on the horizon, Evia, Andros, sometimes even Tinos and Kea.