Netherlands: Weather Overview
The Netherlands has a maritime climate, receiving all four seasons with mild summers and cool winters. Rainfall is moderate, falling frequently at all times of the year and so damp, grey conditions prevail for much of the time. The weather is generally quite unpredictable from moment to moment. The country is almost entirely flat and low lying resulting in little regional climatic variation. It also makes the country highly susceptible to flooding and as such the Netherlands has many manmade hills and dykes, notably the Delta Project which was undertaken to protect Zeeland and is one of the largest and most complicated feats of modern engineering. The Netherlands sits on the northwest coast of Europe and shares borders with Belgium, Germany and the North Sea. It is often mistakenly called Holland.
Summer, from June till mid-September, is very mild with average high temperatures around 20°C creeping up to a peak of 22°C in July and August. Night time lows around 12°C require an extra layer. Late spring and early summer is the Netherlandsâ sunniest period; the sun stays out for an average of six hours per day, but conditions are very changeable and these six hours can be shared out between days of endless sunshine and days of interminable grey. June tends to be the wettest month in the year. Rain in the Netherlands is always moderate in terms of how much rain actually falls, but immoderate in frequency, falling for over half of the days in the year. The period of increased rain in early summer often causes floods. After June rainfall lessens.
Autumn, from August till November, only sees temperatures above 20°C at the very beginning of the season. The average high-temperature drops from around 19°C in September, to 14°C in October and 9°C in November. Night time lows of 10°C in September get down to 3°C in November and by the end of the season, nights can get close to freezing. The sun becomes increasingly shy and by the end of the season only shows itself for around two hours each day. Areas that are further inland tend to get slightly cooler slightly quicker, but the difference is only of about 2°C at the most.
Winter, from December till mid-March, is usually very mild for the countryâs latitude, seeing only short frosts and almost no snow. However, every few years it becomes bitterly cold and the abundant water all over the country freezes; it becomes possible to skate from one village to the next on shallow lakes and canals. Generally, the temperature does not fall below freezing for long. The average high temperature lingers around 5°C for most of the season, while the average low-temperature drops from 1°C in December, to 0°C in January and February, before slipping back above freezing in March. Precipitation increases slightly at the beginning of the season then falls off again. The sun becomes hermitic; only one hour of sunshine can be glimpsed between the clouds per day.
Spring, from mid-March till May, is actually the driest season in the Netherlands. However, rain is, as ever, frequent if very light. Many mornings see the landscape shrouded in a light mist, sometimes developing into the thick fog; but the sun gets tends to burn off any condensation by midday. The sun comes out for longer and temperatures increase as the season progresses. Across the country, the average high temperature stays under 10°C for most of March. By April the average high climbs above 10°C and steadily increases to an average of 17°C in May. Night time lows climb just above freezing at the beginning of the season; March has an average low temperature of 2°C which climbs to 4°C in April and 8°C in May. Coastal areas tend to see slightly more sun than inward regions.
Mid to late summer is probably the best time to visit the Netherlands as low-ish levels of rainfall coincide with acceptable levels of sunshine and it is pleasantly warm in the day time. However, rainfall is moderate and grey skies are the norm all year round; temperatures never reach extremes of hot or cold so no season is unbearable or optimal. Unpredictable and often gloomy weather should not put you off visiting the Netherlands. The charms of Amsterdam's red light district, The Hague's Van Gogh museum and Rotterdam's postmodern architecture are not entirely reliant on clear skies and warmth.
The Netherlands owes its mild climate to its abundance of water, long North Sea Coast, location in the northern hemisphere and to its low and flat topography. The prevailing winds from the North Sea blow in from the southwest bringing precipitation and as there are no natural barriers in the country precipitation falls uniformly, and not in great quantity, at all times. The wind also has a cooling effect across the country. The indecisive nature of the weather from moment to moment can also be attributed to the lack of barriers to the wind, as weather systems from every direction easily converge over the country. The numerous rivers and lakes and the huge delta are so prone to flooding because of how close to sea level they sit, with low banks. The water has a moderating effect all year round, staving off extremes of temperature; this effect is slightly reduced the further inland you travel.
Also part of the Netherlands is the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, tropical islands sitting in the Caribbean off the north coast of South America. As might be expected, the weather in these areas is a little different: high heat and humidity year-round, wet and dry seasons and susceptibility to hurricanes.