Madeira’s climate consists of hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. In general, April to September is mostly dry, whilst October to March is fairly wet.
The warm ocean currents around the island help dictate the climate and mean an absence of extreme hot or cold temperatures. The cooling winds that brush across the island also help to keep summer temperatures more comfortable. Humidity is not usually a problem on the island, being quite stable all-year-round, with averages ranging between 67% and 72%.
The island’s weather is greatly affected by the winds which prevail in the region. The main wind to affect the weather on Madeira is the north east trade wind that comes down from the Portuguese coast. Also playing a significant role is the hot wind that occasionally blows over from North Africa.
Summer is the most popular time of year to visit Madeira thanks to the great weather, which is almost always hot and sunny at this time of year.
June to September can be classed as the summer period, although the months either side can still be very warm and sunny. Generally, in summer the average daily high temperatures are around the mid-20s, but temperatures up to and above 30°C are not uncommon, especially if the hot winds from North Africa are present. At the other end of the scale, the daily low temperatures don’t tend to drop far below the high teens, even at night. Overall, summer temperatures are generally very comfortable, with cooling sea breezes usually ensuring relief from any scorching weather.
There are however times when it can get very hot in Madeira, and scorching temperatures reaching as high as 40°C have been recorded. Temperatures this high only usually occur when the ‘Leste’ wind blows across from North Africa. Although this wind only prevails a few times a year, it is well known for its ability to bring scorching temperatures in the mid-30s and above which make everyone feel very uncomfortable.
Rainfall is very low throughout summer. June averages just 9mm, while July and August frequently go without any rainfall whatsoever. Generally, you can expect to see more rainfall toward the end of September, which has an average monthly rainfall of 36mm, spread across nine rainy days.
The weather remains warm throughout autumn, although there is an increased chance of rain and storms. October and November still see daily high temperatures averaging around 23°C and daily low temperatures averaging around 17°C – that’s significantly warmer than the UK in the height of summer! Temperatures in the high 20s are not unheard of at this time of year. Autumn is a great time to visit Madeira, when the temperatures are warm and because all the kids are back at school, the whole island is quiet and many hotels lower their rates in an effort to fill rooms.
The average monthly rainfall is around 90mm during October, although it is a little higher in November, which is normally one of the wettest months of the year in Madeira. On average there’ll be about a fortnight of rainy days during any month in autumn. This is quite low in comparison to the volume of rain as rainfall tends to be restricted to heavy downpours, rather than the constant drizzle we are so used to in the UK! Late autumn and winter is the time when storms are most likely to hit, bringing heavy rain and strong winds for a couple of days. So if you want to take advantage of the warmest temperatures, the cheapest prices and the driest weather, you’re best off visiting at the start of the autumn season.
It’s difficult to describe any period in Madeira as ‘winter’, since daytime temperatures are frequently around 20°C and almost never fall below 10°C. This makes Madeira a popular destination for northern Europeans seeking a bit of winter sun at this time of year. There is still a healthy average of six sunshine hours every day during winter, which means you’ll definitely be going home with a golden tan, if that’s what you’re after.
At an average of 81mm divided between 16 rainy days, rainfall is quite high in Madeira during December. Thankfully, Madeira usually experiences its rainfall in short, heavy downpours, so you shouldn’t experience any long periods of drizzle if you choose to holiday here during December. With an average of 108mm of rainfall, January is slightly wetter than December, whilst with an average of 72mm of rainfall, February is significantly drier.
Spring starts off generally quite wet, but the dry summer weather quickly takes over, along with the arrival of hotter temperatures.
March sees around 52mm of rainfall and is considered to be the end of the wet season in Madeira. The temperatures in March are still pleasantly warm, with daily highs averaging at around 19°C and daily lows averaging at around 14°C. April is around the same temperature but sees more sunshine and lower rainfall. May sees average highs climb into the 20s, and marks the start of the long hot sunny summer days.
The mountainous nature of the main island of Madeira creates a number of micro climates, with different parts of the island experiencing different types of weather. Funchal, where most of the weather data for the island is recorded, is usually slightly sunnier and dryer than other regions, as it is well sheltered by the high mountains to the north.
The north and east parts of Madeira are slightly wetter and cooler on average as they face most of the weather brought by the Trade winds that blow from the north east. The mountains shelter the south and west from these winds. At times when the weather front blows from the west, however, you may see a lot of rain around the south and the west while the rest of the island is dry and sunny.
In February 2010, Madeira experienced some of the worst extreme weather ever seen on the island in the form of rainstorms, flooding and landslides. In the natural disaster at least 42 people died and more than 100 received serious injuries, due to the consequences of the severe rainfall.
The dramatic rainfall resulted from an Atlantic low-pressure zone and an active cold front over the Azores which journeyed toward the north east on February 19th, 2010. This combination of weather conditions resulted in a series of storms which not only affected Madeira, but also saw high winds, flooding and rain battering Portugal, Spain, Morocco and the Canary Islands, too.
The floods and mudslides which occurred all over the southern half of the island were the result of the extreme rainfall. Some places received as much as double the monthly average of rainfall within a matter of hours.
Between 6am and 11am on February 20th, 2012, Funchal weather station recorded 108mm of rainfall, whilst Pico do Arieiro weather station recorded 165mm. The average rainfall for Funchal for the entire month of February is a mere 72mm.
Funchal was one of the regions most severely affected by landslides. In one instance, a mixture of water and mud gushed down a city street, covering cars and buildings in its path. Loads of disruption was experienced including communication lines being cut, the airport closing and bridges being washed away.