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When to travel to Russia: weather and seasons
Russia's climate is predominantly continental, though European Russia is more maritime-continental under the influence of the Atlantic Ocean, the Baltic Sea, and the Black Sea. The main thing to remember is that Russia is BIG; consequently its climate ranges from steppes in the south through humid continental in much of European Russia; subarctic in Siberia to tundra climate in the polar north; and its winters vary from cool along Black Sea coast to frigid in Siberia, while summers vary from warm in the steppes to cool along Arctic coast.
Moving eastward across the Ural Mountains into Siberia, the climate becomes purely continental. In the southern areas of the Far East, including the Maritime Territory and provinces bordering the East Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk, a monsoonal climate influenced by the Pacific Ocean results in moderately warm and rainy summer conditions while winter is cold with little snow.
The reason for the harsh and extreme climate in Russia is that it lies at high latitudes, and because high mountains along the country's southern border block most maritime tropical air masses from entering Russia.
Temperatures across so vast a landscape as Russia are meaningless, but you can get an idea about the country's climatic variations by looking at average annual temperatures at select locations. Russia's potential for temperature extremes is typified by the national record low of -94°C, recorded at Verkhoyansk in north-central Siberia and the record high of 38°C, recorded at several southern stations.
In effect there are only two seasons, winter and summer; spring and autumn are brief periods of rapid change from one extreme to the other.
Extreme winter cold is the outstanding weather characteristic of most of Russia: the frost-free period only exceeds six months in the North Caucasus and varies with latitude from five to three months in the European section and from three months to less than two in Siberia. The average yearly temperature of nearly all of European Russia is below freezing, and the average for most of Siberia is freezing or below. The average temperature in January is -8°C (18°F) in St. Petersburg, -27°C (-17°F) in Turukhansk in the West Siberian Plain, -43°C (-46°F) in Yakutsk, and -50°C (-58°F) in Verkhoyansk.
Fortunately, most of the country experiences warm summers, the exceptions being the arctic north and the Pacific coasts, where cold ocean currents keep temperatures down. Summer temperatures are more affected by latitude; July averages range from 4°C (39°F) in the Arctic islands to 20°C (68°F) along the federation's southern border. A small part of Black Sea coast around Sochi is considered in Russia to have subtropical climate.
In Moscow, July daytime temperatures average 23°C (73°F), but vary widely from year to year. The average total amount of sunny days is only 75 days per year, most of which fall within summer.
St Petersburg is well-known in Russia for its unpredictable weather. It's the butt of many jokes like the following: "Have you had a summer in Saint Petersburg this year?" "Yes, we have, but I was working that day."
Still, St Petersburg is also famous for its "White Nights". Daylight hours during the year fluctuate amazingly: from 5 hours and 52 minutes in winter to 18 hours and 53 minutes in summer, when the twilight merges with the dawn. This makes it the only city in the world with bright sleepless summer nights when people walk across the city enjoying both its architectural beauty and a wild social scene!
Southern Russia and Ukraine have hotter and more humid summers, while Siberia may have very cold winters, but summers can be pleasant, although they tend to be short and wet.
The Steppes (in the southeast) have hot, dry summers and very cold winters. The weather fluctuates so much that in a single day the temperature may vary from -20°C to +5°C in winter and from +15°C to +30°C in summer.
Rainfall across Russia is generally moderate to light, with the heaviest precipitation coming during the summer months. Autumn is when you are most likely to use your wet weather gear (you did bring it, right?), though a Russian version of an Indian Summer (around mid-September) can be mild and fairly dry.
Climate in Russia
Fahrenheit and centigrade, inches and millimetres, average values.
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