Madeira Islands Weather Overview
The Madeira Islands of Portugal are comprised of several islands. The two that are commonly inhabited are Madeira and Porto Santo, in addition to the uninhabited islands of the Desertas, and the Selvagens (Salvage Islands). Located southeast of Europe, northwest of the Canary Islands and directly west of Morocco, the Madeira Islands typically have ideal weather made up of warm summers and mild rain-filled winters.
The location of the Madeira Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, and the volcanic origins, cause the islands to have a somewhat stable, spring-like, maritime climate year round, making it a popular tourism destination throughout the year. The geographic location and terrain of the Madeira Islands cause a lack of variation in the weather, with some regional differences that create microclimates.
Typically in the summer months, July through October, the average temperature found on the Madeira Islands is a warm and inviting 24 degrees Celsius, while in the winter it averages a mild 18 degrees Celsius.
Temperatures have been recorded as high as 37 degrees Celsius in the southwest, plummeting as low as 7 degrees Celsius in high mountainous altitudes.
Northeastern Madeira Islands
The northeast portion of the Madeira Islands is made up of of Porto Santo Island. Porto Santo is both the northernmost and easternmost island in Madeira, and due to its geographic location, is affected by the Northeasterly Trade Wind. This wind gathers off the coast of Portugal and travels down to the Islands of Cape Verde. As the wind travels, it carries with it moisture and the early morning hours see big sea swells.
This causes wind gusts to north, so areas such as Canico and Canical tend to be more overcast, subject to the wind gusts and with a higher average amount of rainfall than other areas within the Madeira Islands. Temperatures in Porto Santo are generally well within the typical and comfortable range of 18- 24 degrees Celsius, with wind gusts up to 28 knots. The exceptions on Porto Santo are the snow-capped Fancho Peak hills located on the ends of the island and reaching 515 meters in height.
Southwest of Porto Santo is Madeira Island. At 55 km long, 22 km wide, with a coastline spanning 144 km, it is the largest island of the group with its own microclimates.
The northern coast of Madeira contains Ruivo Peak, a mountain that reaches an altitude of 1861 meters. The northern portion of Madeira itself is only sporadically inhabited due to the bracing winds, altitude, dips in temperature and mountainous terrain. Most individuals that choose to reside in the north do so at the foot of the peaks due higher temperatures, sunshine, rain, and availability of water.
Typically vacationers and residents of the Madeira Islands are drawn to the lush rich greens of southern Madeira, or the sandy white palm tree lined beaches of northeastern Ponta Sorta.
Southern Madeira Islands
The southern coast of Madeira is acclaimed for having the most desirable weather with extensive amounts of sunshine and tropical scenery. This is most likely why this is the most settled area of Madeira. Well known cities on the southern coast from west to east include Ponta do Pargo and Ponto do Sol, to the centrally located capital Funchal, to the southeast coast of Ponta de Sao Lourenco.
However, even within southern portion of the Madeira Islands there are varying microclimates. The Bay of Funchal, for example, is surrounded and protected from heavy rains by the highest peaks, allowing it to have some of the best-uninterrupted sunshine on the islands.
In the southern portion of Madeira, but further west, is Ponta do Sol and Calheta. These cities enjoy a dazzling amount of sunshine as well, and dense luxurious foliage due to the hills of Paul da Serra backing them, but experience a lower temperature due to their inability to buffet the sea winds.
Central Madeira itself is a mixture of sparkling sunshine and heavy rainfalls due to its geographical surroundings. Protected from only some of the bracing sea wind by Ruivo Peak, it is an area with weather that experiences both fair amounts of rain and sunshine.
18 km southeast of Madeira is the area known as Desertas and is comprised of Chao, Bugio, and Deserta Grande, three separate islets that all rise from volcanic origins. These islets are, for the most part, uninhabited due to harsh and unsuitable living conditions.
While the Deserta Grande is unable to provide the conditions needed for permanent residency, it has a large amount of wildlife with some vegetation, causing the island to be named a wildlife preserve and refuge in the 1900s.
Because of that, Deserta Grande is used for recreational activities and resources. These consist of hunting animals such as goats, rare tropical bird sightings, and gathering the sparse but succulent vegetation, such as sweet potatoes and gourds.
Deserta Grande’s uninhabitable environment is likely caused by jagged terrain, lack of leafy vegetation and the lack of protection from the Northeasterly Trade Winds.
The last portion of the Mareida Islands, known the Selvagens, or the Salvage Islands, consist of three rugged rocks located approximately 251 km south of Madeira and north of the Canary Islands. The Salvage Islands are uninhabitable as well due to their jagged terrain and high winds. They are often described as having a constant hazy and overcast look about them.
Extreme Weather of the Madeira Islands
Madeira Island, while known for consistent sunshine and enveloping warmth, has had a few occurrences of extreme weather.
Although they are unusual, hurricanes have occurred in the Madeira Islands, such as Hurricane Vincent in 2005.
In February 2010 heavy rains and winds exceeding 100 km an hour created devastating mudslides, and flooding causing number deaths on the usually peaceful island. On April 24, 2012 a 4.7 magnitude earthquake rocked the Islands of Madeira.