Estonia: Weather Overview
Estonia has a maritime temperate climate with all four seasons. Summers are warm and winters are not particularly cold but quite snowy. Rainfall is moderately low, falling in frequent showers throughout the year, and at its heaviest in summer and autumn. Estonia is a very flat, low-lying country covered in lakes and as such has little regional variation in climate. Small differences are caused by the proximity of different locations to the Baltic Sea and North Atlantic Ocean, and by the direction of the prevailing winds. Estonia is a small country in Eastern Europe sharing land borders with Russia to the east, and Latvia to the south, Sweden and Finland share its water borders. The Estonian language and people are of Finnish origin and so share strong ties with their northerly neighbours. The climate of Estonia is very similar to that of coastal Finland.
The estoniaâs climate is highly influenced by the Atlantic Ocean and the Baltic Sea. Sitting in the northerly part of the temperate zone, Estonia would receive hotter summers and colder winters if it were not for the moderating effects of the Baltic Sea currents and breezes, and for weather fronts travelling over from the Atlantic. The flat landscape also means there is little to force rain from rain-bearing winds, and yet it is considered a wet country. While Estoniaâs rainfall is not very high, it is constant and cool temperatures mean slow evaporation; this, and flat topography, that has lead to a marshy landscape and an abundance of lakes: there are over 1400 in the country.
The weather is not really Estoniaâs selling point as a holiday destination which is perhaps why it remains a largely âundiscoveredâ location. But it is the wet weather that is to thank for the green landscape and beautiful lakes, and perfect weather is not essential for the enjoyment of the cultural attractions of this fascinating country.
Summer, from June till August, is very mild with warm, sunny days and cool nights. As ever, summer is the most popular time to visit Estonia because of the warm weather, but it is also the wettest time of year so donât get caught without a raincoat.
Tallinn, the capital and largest city of Estonia, sits on Estoniaâs northern Baltic coast. In summer its average high temperature is 19°C in June, 21°C in July and 20°C in August. Night time lows rest 10°C in June and 12°C in July and August. June is sunniest with ten hours of sunshine per day. It is cooler around coastal regions and to the west due to the westerly direction of cooling winds from the Atlantic, and the cooling Baltic Sea. Southerly regions further from the sea can see temperatures rising into the high 20s on sunny summer days, but generally, as the country is so flat and covered in lakes, heat is kept at a very moderate level by wind and water. In Tartu, in the southeast of the country, the average high temperature still doesnât rise above 22°C.
August ties with September as the wettest month in the year. Rainfall is moderate across the country and heaviest on the Sakala and Haanja uplands, and any areas of increased elevation. This is because rain-bearing winds reach most of Estonia in a uniform fashion and are only blocked, and so forced to drop more rain, by the rare topographical obstacles. Although in the summer rainfall is high in comparison to the rest of the year, it is not particularly high in comparison to many other countries. In Tallinn, the wettest months still only receive around 80mm of rain. Like in the UK, people think of Estonia as quite wet not because the volume of rain that falls is very high, but because it rains very frequently. Showers are often quite light and they also have the effect of clearing the sky of clouds.
Sunny weather is common throughout the summer with an average of ten hours of sunshine per day around the coast in June, the brightest month. However, it should be remembered that Estonia lies around the same latitude as Scotland and so the ten hours of sunshine per day are spread out over a much longer daytime; in June the day lasts for nineteen hours while the night only lasts for five.
Estoniaâs coast is on the southeast of the Baltic Sea where the Gulf of Finland lies. The Baltic Sea is an inland sea and so is affected by weather conditions on land as much as it affects them. It is partially fed by mountain meltwater and stretches high up north, towards the Arctic Circle, making it very cold. The sea sees a large seasonal variation in temperature but it never gets very warm. In the height of summer the Estonian coast only gets up to around 17°C, and sudden swells of deep water can drop the temperature lower at any time. The coast is the sunniest region of Estonia so while you may not want to swim for long, it is very pretty. It is worth pointing out that the sea around the UK does not see average highs above 17°C in the height of summer, and plenty of people still like to swim in it. Shallow bays warm up much more and can even get into the mid-20s.
Autumn, from September till November, is very gloomy and quickly becomes cold. Rainfall remains frequent, falling on more days than it doesnât, though it decreases in volume. This means that it often falls in a tedious drizzle. Sunshine diminishes as clouds smother the sky; in November the sun only comes out for around one hour per day. The temperature drops; by November frosts are a regular occurrence and the odd snowflake might be seen. Wet, grey weather is not really what anyone wants in a holiday so Estonia is best avoided in Autumn.
In Tallinn, the average high temperature drops to 14°C in September, 9°C in October and 3°C in November. The average low-temperature drops from 7°C, to 4°C, to -1°C respectively.
Winter, from December till February, is cold and snowy. Snow falls first in the southeast where temperatures are at their lowest due to distance from the sea. It is often seen in this area early in December, while further northwest it does not settle till January and coastal regions sometimes do not receive any permanent snow cover. However, most of Estonia is covered in a thick blanket of snow from January, throughout winter and into spring. Snowfall is heaviest at the beginning of the season.
The average high temperature drops below freezing for the whole season apart from on the west coast and on the western islands. Tallinn sees an average high temperature of -1°C in December dropping to -3°C for January and February. The average low temperature drops to -6°C for December and down to -9°C in January and February. The Baltic Sea gets very cold and its northern reaches, and around Estonia Bothnia Bay and the Gulf of Finland, usually freeze. It is sometimes even possible to skate out to the islands off the coast of the country. Certainly, inland the lakes freeze over and it is possible to ice skate.
Clouds continue to dominate the sky but retreat slightly at the end of the season. In the summer the days are extended, but in the winter it is the nights that last forever. December is the darkest time of year when the sun only rises above the horizon for six hours per day, with an average of one hour of clear skies and sunshine per day. While it is usually unpleasantly dark and grey at this time of year, the snow and ice transform Estoniaâs landscape into, ahem, a winter wonderland, no less.
Spring, from March till May, is a time for floods. While rainfall is low, late March sees the beginning of the thaw and as snow turns to water Estoniaâs many waterways and lakes burst their banks. The thaw is brought on by the welcomed increase in temperatures. It takes a while to warm up, remaining cold till mid-May and nights stay cold throughout the season. However, the days lengthen, the clouds quickly disappear and the sun is welcomed back for many hours each day.
In Tallinn, the average high temperature rises from 1°C in March, to 7°C in April and 15°C in May. The average low creeps from -6°C, to 0°C, to 5°C respectively. The sun comes bounding back in style, leaping to four hours per day in March, to six hours in April, making a veritable long-jump to nine hours per day in May.
Climate Change in Estonia
Estoniaâs many wetlands mean it has some of the richest birdlife in Europe, but shorter, warmer winters and erratic rainfall threaten this unique environment. Environmental issues are particularly poignant in regions like Estonia which sit in climate transition zones, are low-lying, dominated by water and have traditionally seen long, snowy winters despite relatively mild temperatures. Global warming is already affecting Estoniaâs wildlife and could dramatically change the countryâs landscape.
Estonia suffered devastating environmental damage during the Soviet Era and is now working hard to mend the harm done. The Soviet Army, amongst its many crimes, dumped jet fuel and toxic chemicals on land and in the sea around Estonia, and now water sources are dangerously contaminated. Estonia continues to add to its own environmental problems, however, with its oil-shale power plants.