Turkey: Weather Overview
Turkey borders the Black Sea and Georgia and Armenia to the northeast, Iran to the east, Iraq to the southeast, the Syrian Arab Republic and the Mediterranean to the south, the Aegean Sea to the west and Greece and Bulgaria to the northwest. Turkey's climate, like its location, is varied and complicated, to say the least. Because of the country's geographical conditions, it is difficult, if not impossible, to pinpoint a climate for the country as a whole.
Turkey is split into 7 different regions- Marmara, Blacksea Coast, Eastern Anatolian, Southeastern Anatolia, Central Anatolia, Mediterranean and Aegean. Each region has a vastly different climate which is primarily affected by its proximity to mountain ranges and different seas and oceans. On the whole, the Marmara, Aegean and Mediterranean coasts have typical Mediterranean climates with hot summers and mild, wet winters. The east of the country is mountainous with warm summers and very cold, snowy winters. Central Turkey, located on an interior plateau has low rainfall and cold or very cold winters.
North West Turkey
The Marmara region of North West Turkey is home to Istanbul, the nation's largest city. Istanbul lies on the Marmara Sea which is the inland sea that separates the Asian part of Turkey from its European part and connects the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea. As a result of its proximity to the coast, Istanbul and its surrounding region experiences a temperate continental climate. The weather conditions mirror a cooler version of a typical Mediterranean climate. The region is split in the middle by the Sea of Marmara and the narrow Bosphorus Strait (also known as the Istanbul Strait) with strong, cool currents that only experienced swimmers should attempt.
Istanbul skyline in the sunset. (The Blue Mosque).
Summer in Istanbul runs from June to September, July generally being the warmest month. The highest ever recorded temperature in Istanbul saw the city sweltering through a 37-degree day, but on average summer temperatures are around 28 degrees. The summer months are also the driest months, though not as dry as some parts of central Turkey which can experience arid conditions year round, particularly in summer.
Winter in Istanbul starts quite late, with conditions beginning to really cool down in mid-December. December sees an average minimum of 5 degrees and an average maximum of 11 degrees. January and February are the coolest months, with average minimums of 3 and 2 degrees respectively. March sees conditions remaining cool, with an average minimum of 3 degrees and an average maximum of 11 degrees. Winters in this region (like the other coastal regions in Turkey) are generally wetter and milder than its interior counterparts.
Istanbul is known to be quite a windy city, as it is in the path of two prevailing winds- the "poyraz" and the "Iodos" which both blow from the south. The Poyraz brings with it cool and rainy conditions, whereas the Iodos is a warm wind.
As you head further south toward the cities of Izmit and Bursa, weather conditions begin to vary. This region experiences slightly warmer winters than the Black Sea coast. Bursa, for example, has seen highs of 40 degrees in the midst of summer, as with Izmit which on the 11 of August 1970 saw the city record its highest ever temperature of 41.6 degrees.
Izmit observes a split climate, all depending on your proximity to the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara. As you move closer to the coast, conditions become slightly more temperate. The area around Izmit does, however, lack the refreshing summer sea breezes that regions of similar climates play host to, so as a result, conditions can be quite sticky and humid.
Sunbeds on the Turkish seaside, Izmir.
Winter in the Marmara region varies enormously as you head north to south, primarily due to the presence of the Uludag Mountains which tower behind the city of Bursa. Bursa is home to Turkey's most popular ski resort and winter sports centre. Weather conditions through the winter months are cooler and sometimes harsher than other regions of similar climates. Generally, as you head further east the weather cools down, but snowfall is now low throughout the region. Istanbul on average sees 1 to 2 weeks of snowfall throughout winter, with the snowfall often being quite heavy on about 5 -7 days.
The coldest temperature ever recorded in Istanbul and Izmit was -8 degrees (1960) but record lows of -16 have been recorded in the past in parts of the region. 1978 saw Istanbul endure its way through a severe winter in which the main airport was partly closed for 3 days. On the whole, winter sees an average temperature of 5.6 degrees.
Autumn is generally the longest season in the region, bringing a picturesque morning haze for several months. Spring is comparatively shorter, with March maintaining winter-like weather of cool and rainy conditions, before moving into April and May which witness typical spring temperatures.
Precipitation (snow and rain) also varies as you explore different parts of the region. Rainfall decreases as you head further south-west, with the coast of Black Sea averaging 1000mm annual precipitation decreasing to 800mm once you are in and around Izmit. Bursa sees 668 mm of annual precipitation, which is still enough to keep the inner city's parks and gardens so famously green- the city is often called "Yesil Bursa" which translates to "Green Bursa." The city is also surrounded by vast forests, rolling farmland, and low hills- dissimilar to inland Turkey which can be quite arid.
Northern Turkey: Black SeaCoast
Amasra, Black sea resort, Turkey.
The Black Sea Coast of Turkey comprises 1700km of coastline which is fertile, luscious and green. The Black Sea climate is characterized as being continental, which means that the region is subject to pronounced seasonal variations. This is the most popular area in Turkey with tourists who are attracted by the long, golden coastline and summer heat.
Samsun is the largest city and the capital of the Samsun Province. It is located between two river deltas which extend into the Black Sea. Like the region as a whole, Samsun experiences high rainfall year round. The region as a whole average 781mm of annual rainfall, and is generally humid and cloudy a lot of the time. Because of the year-round rainfall, the area is rich and fruitful, which makes for lush grass which feeds cattle to produce some of Turkey's best milk, cream and milk.
The area has a tendency to be quite humid, with an average relative humidity of 72% which means that it may seem hotter than it is or cooler than it is, so keep this in mind when packing for your visit.
As you head further east around the coast you will find Trabzon which is a city located on the northeastern coast as you near Georgia and Russia. Trabzon has a fairly typical Black Sea climate with cool winters, warm summers and high humidity. January sees Trabzon at its coolest, falling to average lows of about 5 degrees. Summer can see the city hit highs of 27 degrees, and the water temperature swings between 10°–20°C throughout the year.
If you are planning to visit the Black Sea Coast it is best to visit during the summer months, though keep in mind that this is peak season. If you want to avoid the holiday crowds then autumn and spring with their mild weather are preferable. While the shoulder seasons do see the mercury falling, pack a light jacket and you will be fine. The coastal regions are the areas of Turkey that are suitable to visit year round as no major temperature extremes are experienced.
Oludeniz beach in Turkey on a beautiful summers day.
Central Turkey/ Central Anatolia
Generally, as you head towards inland Turkey the climate becomes increasingly harsh: summers are hotter and winters are colder. It could probably be said that the worst part of Turkey's climate is the severe cold that is experienced in these inland regions. The Central Anatolia region experiences a mix of continental and steppe climate.
A steppe climate is characterized by warm summers, extremely cold winters and a great difference between day time and night time temperatures. Found in the middle of continents and on the edge of high mountains, the mountains have the effect of blocking any moist air from any oceans. As a result, there is not enough precipitation to support much flora growth, and the plants adapt to the drought conditions by being small and growing extensive root systems. There isn't much humidity in the air because steppe climates are located away from the ocean and close to mountain barriers.
Within this region is the nation's capital and second largest city, Ankara. The city itself experiences a harsh, dry, continental climate of cold, snowy winters and hot, dry summers. The rainfall that the city witnesses falls primarily in the spring and autumn months. Ankara sits 3000ft above sea level on top of a high plateau. The area doesn't experience much rainfall, averaging only 382mm annually, but does witness a large amount of snowfall. On the whole, The Anatolian Plateau is much more subject to extremes than are the coastal areas. January, February and March see average minimums of -4 degrees, - 3 degree and -1 degree respectively. From July to September there is minimal rain, and average maximums reach 26 to 31 degrees from July to August. This area is also characterised by huge differences in temperature from day to night, typical of steppe climates. This is due to the high level of insolation produced by low rainfall and humidity.
As you head into the Eastern Central Anatolia Region, the summers are cooler and the winters are extremely cold and snowy. Eskisehir has moderate weather conditions, with a cold, but not unbearable, -2 degrees average in the winter months, and a pleasant 20 degrees average throughout summer.
Eastern/ South Eastern Turkey
Eastern and South Eastern Turkey (The regions of Eastern Anatolia and South Eastern Anatolia) are characterized by long, harsh winters and heavy snowfall. The average minimums in the depths of the mountains are a bitter -13 degrees, and the summer average of only 17 degrees.
In the mountainous regions, the temperatures are extreme. Malatya is the capital of the region, lying at an altitude of 964 meters above the sea level and encompassing hot, dry summers and cold, snowy winters. However, in recent years the constructions of several dams have made the climate slightly milder.
The region has an average annual temperature of only 9 degrees; however, summers have been known to see the mercury rising to 38 degrees. A perfect example of the extremities of the climate in this region is when the barometer has fallen to a bitterly cold -43 degrees Celsius! Winter does see frequent and very heavy snowfall which has left many of the smaller mountain villages isolated as a result of heavy storms.
As you head further south in the Southeastern Anatolia Region, the summers are hot - occasionally seeing extreme highs of 46 degrees in the peak of summer, particularly on the banks of the rivers Tigris and Euphrates as you head toward Syria. The winters in the southeast are not as extreme as in the east of the country.
Southeastern Anatolia is dry, averaging on 576mm rainfall. However, a lot of water is derived from the gigantic Southeast Anatolia Project (GAP) irrigation and hydroelectric power system located near Sanliurfa.
Promenade by the sea in Alanya Mediterranean Coast, Turkey.
The further south toward the ocean (and west) you head the climate begins to develop into a Mediterranean climate. The weather conditions in the area are fairly typical Mediterranean conditions of hot summers and mild winters.
On the north side of the coast, you will find the Taurus mountain ranges that lie on the east side of the Aegean and the North side of the Med. The southern shore is also fringed by these high mountain ranges which have a large effect on the climate.
These coasts have a typical mild Mediterranean climate with no huge temperature extremes. The swimming season becomes shorter as one travels North West. Because of the mountains, the east side of the Aegean and the North side of the Mediterranean have regionally different climates.
Antalya, in the middle of the coastline, is the most popular resort on Turkey's Mediterranean coast. Situated upon a cliff overlooking the sea, Antalya is home to some of the Mediterranean's cleanest beaches which make it a perfect holiday destination. Antalya, which is often known as the Turkish Riviera, is protected from cold northerly winds as a result of its proximity to the nearby mountain ranges.
As you head east from Antalya toward Alanya you will pass through the rich plain of Pamphylia. The plain nestles between the Taurus mountain range and the Mediterranean and is dominated by fertile terraces and the white chalk faces of the foothills. The Taurus mountain range in the north has the effect of causing fog filled mornings and a high presence of visible, spectacular rainbows. The height of the mountains creates an extraordinary visual as snow can often be seen on the peaks even on hot days in the cities below.
Alanya has a moderate continental Mediterranean climate. Most rain in the region falls in the winter months as it is influenced by the Mediterranean Basin. The difference as you head further east is that the winters are slightly shorter making the summer longer. Alanya really only has 2 distinct seasons of summer and winter, with winter running from November through until February. The sea around Alanya has an average annual temperature of 21.4° with an average August temperature of a bath-like 27.9°. Alanya itself has an average annual temperature of 28 degrees.
Heading further east along the coast toward Syria you will reach the cities of Adana, followed by Antakya. In this region, you will find the mountains again coming down to the sea which makes for a very picturesque coastline. This also has the effect of keeping the region very hot and humid in the summer months, reaching highs of a sweltering 45 degrees.
This area is undoubtedly the hottest and driest area of Turkey, the conditions are very typical of the Middle East and the area along the border of Syria experiences a semi-arid steppe climate with rainfall only in the winter months.
Aegean Region (Western Turkey)
The final region of Turkey is the Aegean region which is located north of Antalya and encompasses 11% of the total area of Turkey. The Aegean coastal plain enjoys exceptionally mild weather conditions - characterized by fertile springs, hot summers, sunny autumns and warm winters that are interrupting by occasional showers. The Aegean provides the perfect escape from the rigours of a northern winter: even in January and February, the days are sunny and pleasant.
Rainfall in the region averages 645mm per year and the temperatures can range from an absolute minimum of -8 degrees to a sweltering maximum of 43 degrees Celsius. The Aegean Sea to the west and the Western Taurus mountain range which runs perpendicular to Izmir (the regions largest city) each has a huge effect on the climate. The Aegean Sea keeps the summers cool by providing refreshing sea breezes. The mountains which run down to the shores and the many valleys between them permit the sea climate to reach inner parts of the region.