Among all types of climates found in the world, a few stand out because they offer more pleasant weather year round than others. One example of such a climate is a Mediterranean climate. But is a Mediterranean climate the best climate in the world for everyone? Who would like it and who should look for a different climate? Here are my thoughts on the topic as a world traveler and fan of warm climates.
What’s a Mediterranean Climate Like?
Don’t worry, I’m not going to spend 30 minutes explaining the intricacies of a Mediterranean climate like a climatologist. But we need a quick definition to make sure we’re on the same page.
In short, a Mediterranean climate is a climate featuring dry summers and mild winters. Because places that have this climate are mostly located on or near the coast, the average temperatures are moderated.
These regions can still on occasion experience extremely hot temperatures or freezing cold nights. But it’s not the norm as is the case in humid subtropical areas with muggy summers or continental areas with freezing cold winters.
A Mediterranean climate doesn’t have four distinct seasons. It has two: summer (sunny, with little to no rainfall) and winter (cloudier, with plenty of precipitation).
Year round, places with a Mediterranean climate have warm to hot temperatures. As for how hot it gets, that depends on the type of a Mediterranean climate a given place has.
Three Types of Mediterranean Climates
We can divide a Mediterranean climate into three types:
- Hot-summer Mediterranean climate. This type is the one people have in mind when they think about a Mediterranean climate. It’s common in southern Europe and southern California. As the name implies, this type has hot summers that are so dry that often they’re virtually rain-free. It also has mild wet winters though they may sometimes get chilly (particularly at night) and even experience snowfall. Examples include Los Angeles in California, Barcelona in Spain, and Perth in Australia.
- Warm-summer Mediterranean climate. This type is lesser known because it’s primarily found in areas impacted by cool ocean currents, upwelling, at higher latitudes and at higher elevations. For example, immediate coastal areas may have a hot-summer Mediterranean climate while areas at a higher altitude, even if very close to the sea, will have cooler summer temperatures and thus qualify for this type. Otherwise cities located on the coast with cool currents will have cooler weather as well. Examples include Cape Town in South Africa, Porto in Portugal, and San Francisco in California.
- Cool-summer Mediterranean climate. This type is so rare that most people would be surprised to hear it even exists. Scattered at high-altitude locations around the world, it’s mostly found in North America and South America. As the name implies, a cool-summer Mediterranean climate doesn’t really offer warm to hot temperatures anymore. If anything, they’re mild in the summer at best. Examples include Balmaceda in Chile, Haleakalā Summit in Hawaii, and Liawenee in Australia.
In this article, I refer exclusively to the hot-summer and the warm-summer type. The cool-summer type is not only very rare but also doesn’t have the most important features that make a Mediterranean climate so pleasant.
Mediterranean Climate Map
Here’s a map showing Mediterranean climate regions around the world:
This handy map was created by Mauricio Lucioni from Peru who adapted a Köppen–Geiger climate classification map for temperate climates.
While Mediterranean climates are most commonly associated with nations bordering the Mediterranean Sea, you can find them on almost every continent, both in the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere.
In North America, you have California, Washington, and Oregon. In South America, you have Chile.
In Africa, you have South Africa as well as North Africa on the Mediterranean Sea and the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean.
In Asia, because the Middle East is considered a part of Asia, Israel is one example of a Mediterranean climate there.
And lastly, in Oceania, you have southwestern Australia as well as Southern Australia.
In general, Mediterranean climate zones are found roughly 30 to 45 degrees north or south of the equator. For example, Los Angeles is 34 degrees north of the equator. Barcelona is 41 degrees north of the equator. Perth is 31 degrees south of the equator. Cape Town is 34 degrees south of the equator.
Some places are slightly outside these ranges but still feature a Mediterranean climate. For example, Seattle is 47 degrees north of the equator.
What Is So Special About a Mediterranean Climate?
While very few places have a Mediterranean climate, the Mediterranean climate zone is shared by many important cities. For example, cities on the Mediterranean Sea like Athens, Rome, or Jerusalem all played a huge part in history.
One may argue that civilization flourished in the Mediterranean basin primarily because of the climate. Because of its mild temperatures, it was possible to grow a variety of crops. This helped gather an abundance of food and focus on developing laws or improving infrastructure rather than satisfying basic needs only.
If you’re wondering what’s so special about a Mediterranean climate, that’s a good starting point: being able to grow a very wide range of agricultural crops year round, including grains, fruit trees, a variety of vegetables, and herbs.
In modern times, Mediterranean climate cities outside of the Mediterranean basin like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Cape Town, Perth, and Lisbon are all important global cities. California in particular has a disproportionate impact on the world. Its favorable climate has definitely been a key factor in attracting not only local but also global talent.
Here’s Why a Mediterranean Climate Is the Best Climate in the World
I’m going to provide two perspectives on Mediterranean climates: first I’ll argue in favor of them and later I’ll argue against them. I’ll then close this article with explaining which position is closer to my point of view and also provide some alternatives to a Mediterranean climate.
Here are the reasons why a Mediterranean climate is the best climate in the world:
- A Mediterranean climate is a temperate climate, perfect for those who like more moderate conditions. Temperatures are rarely extreme and winters are usually free of freezing temperatures and snow.
- Because Mediterranean climates feature dry summers, you can enjoy the summer months without worrying about bad weather. This makes it very easy to plan hiking trips, backyard parties, or other outdoor activities.
- While summer temperatures in Mediterranean climate regions may sometimes get hot, overall due to low humidity the heat is much more tolerable than in more humid climates. You won’t be completely drenched in sweat during the day and you’ll be able to sleep at night without air conditioning.
- A warm summer Mediterranean climate is the best mild weather climate there is. Because temperatures are never too hot or too cold, it’s perfect for those who like mild weather.
- Mediterranean climates usually enjoy abundant sunshine (though mostly in the warmer months). This is particularly a blessing for people like me who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder and develop a depression without plenty of natural light.
- Mediterranean climate regions have spectacular coastal areas with breathtaking scenery. From my own travel experiences, Greece in particular has some incredible views with some of the most surreal blue colors of the Mediterranean Sea.
- Rainy winters may provide a seasonal respite from abundant sunshine and high temperatures. But because it doesn’t rain every day (but maybe 15 days a month), you can still enjoy the outdoors.
- Mediterranean climates are often associated with healthy lifestyles. Out of five Blue Zones in the world where people live the longest, three have Mediterranean climates. Pleasant temperatures year round encourage activity while the abundance of fresh produce makes it easier to have healthy meals.
Here’s Why a Mediterranean Climate Is NOT the Best Climate in the World
And to provide a different perspective, here are the reasons why a Mediterranean climate is NOT the best climate in the world:
- While the average temperature in the summer months is warm to hot, winters can still get cool. If you’re looking for a climate that’s properly warm year round, a Mediterranean climate isn’t it. Winter temperatures man reach only 15 °C (59 °F) during the day while at night, they can drop to rather cool 5 °C (41 °F). Being out in the sun can still be pleasant even on a winter day. But if it’s wet, windy, and you’re staying indoors in a house without proper insulation (as is often the case for houses in Mediterranean climate regions), you’ll freeze.
- Wet winters typical for Mediterranean climates can get very humid. Excess humidity can get very tiring and pose a health risk unless you invest in a dehumidifier.
- Dry summers may get tiring as they offer almost no variability. Each day is sunny and hot. You may long for some rain but it won’t come until winter months. For those who don’t tolerate high temperatures well, a hot-summer Mediterranean climate will be too hot.
- While there are seasonal changes, there isn’t as much change as there is in a regular four-season temperate climate. The change can be rather abrupt, from bright, sunny and dry summers to wet, cool winters.
- Because Mediterranean climate regions usually get seasonal tourism, summers can be exhausting for the locals who have to deal with an influx of visitors. A beach that’s empty in the winter months may be completely packed in July.
- Mediterranean climates are particularly vulnerable to climate change. Rising temperatures and irregular rainfall may have significant consequences for everyday life in the next decades.
- Hot dry summers pose a risk of wildfires, drought, and water scarcity. No matter how enjoyable a Mediterranean dry summer can be, these catastrophic events or inconveniences may quickly make you reconsider whether you want to live in a place that’s bone dry and gets little to no rainfall in the summer.
- If you’re a fan of green landscapes, natural vegetation can be rather sparse, particularly outside of the winter months. Instead of hues of green, you’re more likely to see hues of brown. For more vivid colors, there’s only enough rainfall in the winter months. But even then, they won’t match the bright green colors you can see during the spring and early summer in cooler climates or the deep green you can see in tropical climates.
Here’s What I Think About a Mediterranean Climate
In my (lengthy) article on the best climate to live in, I concluded that the best types of climates to live in for most humans are a hot semi-arid climate, a hot summer Mediterranean climate, a warm summer Mediterranean climate, and a humid subtropical climate. Consequently, two out of four best climates happen to be Mediterranean climates.
But I also wrote an article on the best weather in the world. And there, I argued that Mediterranean countries in southern Europe aren’t that great climate-wise because they’re too cold in the winter.
So what it is in the end? What are my thoughts on Mediterranean climates? Do I like them or hate them?
I’m in between.
What I Like
I can’t say that I dislike Mediterranean climates. There’s something magical about shoulder seasons in the Mediterranean. Early spring or early fall is already or still warm but there are few crowds. The temperatures aren’t baking hot but they aren’t cold, either. The weather is perfect for enjoying fresh local produce, sitting in the backyard overlooking the sea, taking walks or going on hikes.
Dry summers are also a great aspect of this climate. If you’re planning a summer trip to a place that has a Mediterranean climate, it’s pretty much guaranteed you don’t have to worry about bad weather. It’ll be dry, sunny, and glorious.
Water temperature, and I primarily refer to southern Europe and the Mediterranean here, is also pleasant and much higher than it usually is in the Atlantic Ocean.
Then there are also coastal landscapes which are spectacular. It’s very easy to relax in such beautiful environments.
What I Don’t Like
My biggest issue with places I’ve visited that have a Mediterranean climate are their wet winters. While they’re supposedly mild winters, there’s a caveat.
When you see that winter temperatures range from 15 to 20 °C (or 59 to 68 °F) you may think it’s super pleasant weather. And while that may be the case when you’re out in the sun, indoors you may be absolutely miserable.
Few homes in the Mediterranean basin have heating. If there’s any heating, it’s air conditioning, electric heaters and blankets. Because the houses are constructed for hot weather, any heat you manage to accumulate in the house dissipates almost instantly if you turn off the heaters.
It’s hard to describe how chilly such a house gets with tiles everywhere and windows so small that they don’t bring any sunlight inside. Everything’s cold to the touch, including toilet seats, floor, door knobs, etc.
And don’t get me started on waking up early in the morning in a house so chilly your brain enters into survival mode. Winters in Mediterranean areas with inadequate heating are much, much worse than being in a cold region with proper heating and insulated buildings.
Granted, there are some exceptions which have a hotter but still Mediterranean climate with warmer winters such as Madeira or the Canary Islands. There, only on colder days you’ll feel cold indoors. But even there, if it’s winter, you can still tell it’s winter. And my personal preference is to live in a place with year round summer.
Ultimately, while I do like visiting places with a Mediterranean climate and even spending extended time there, for year round living I prefer a warmer climate that doesn’t have winters at all.
Mediterranean Climate Alternatives
If you’re considering where to move and a Mediterranean climate doesn’t convince you, here are your alternatives:
- If you want hotter weather year round but still with a cooler season, a dry-winter humid subtropical climate around 25-30 degrees north or south of the equator (for example found in Brisbane in Australia or Florianópolis in Brazil) may be an option.
- If you want even hotter weather but without consistent rainfall, a tropical monsoon climate (found in Miami in Florida or Cairns in Australia) or a tropical savanna climate with a pronounced dry season (found in Key West in Florida or Cancún in Mexico) is your best bet.
- If you want a warm, sunny climate that’s dry year round (instead of just in the summer), go with a hot semi-arid climate found in Honolulu in Hawaii or Alicante in Spain. This climate still has cooler winters but they don’t come with increased rainfall.
- If you want a hot, sunny climate that’s dry year round (instead of just in the summer), go with a hot desert climate found in Phoenix in Arizona or Dubai in United Arab Emirates. This climate stays warm and dry year round. While winters are cooler, they are generally still warm. Summer temperatures may get extremely hot, though.
- If you want a cooler, more cloudy climate but one that’s still mild, an oceanic climate found in Auckland in New Zealand or Forks in Washington could be an option. You can also consider a subtropical highland climate which is often called an eternal spring climate. This type is found at elevation primarily in South America in places like Cuenca in Ecuador or Bogotá in Colombia.
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