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The Meltemi in Greece & Turkey

The Meltemi wind was known by the old Greeks as the Etesian northern winds, and results from a high pressure system (>1025) laying over the Balkan/Hungary area and a relatively low pressure (<1010) system over Turkey.
Although this katabatic wind can bring about harsh sailing conditions it also provides cooling, low humidity and good visibility. Furthermore, it can be characterized as one of the few Mediterranean winds that do not necessarily die out at the end of the day and can easily last more than three to six days. See my climate page for Greek weather statistics.
The onset is the monsoonal effect of the summer season that leads to the development of an intense heat trough over southern Asia extending westward over the Anatolian plateau. Higher pressure dominates over the relatively cooler surface of the Mediterranean Sea, and settled, dry weather persists. Northerly winds prevail along the Greek coast during the winter also, but only those northerly winds occurring between May and November are considered Etesian. The pressure gradients necessary to drive the Meltemi result from a combination of:

The surface flow is generally divergent in an Etesian situation, and the weather is generally thought to be dry with clear skies. However, this is mostly true only during the main yacht charter season of July and August when scattered altocumulus appear a day before an Etesian, and the only other clouds are orographic types that may form on the lee side of islands in stronger Etesian winds.

The Meltemi occurs mainly during the summer season (June - September with 70%), but also in May and October one may frequently experience this dry wind.
One should anticipate its maximum during July and August.
Usually the wind starts in the early afternoon reaching 4-5 Beaufort and dies out at sun set. However, not uncommonly it reaches 5-7 Bft during the day, perseveres during the night and blows 5-7 Bft again the next day; a pattern which can easily be repeated over many days, sometimes even up to ten days.
If during this period sailing to windward cannot be avoided, it can be very wise to lift anchor at dawn and to cover as many miles as possible before the wind starts.

Important guidelines

Fortunately, the possibility of stronger winds is actually the only shortcoming of the Aegean. There are hardly any shallow waters, no tides to speak off and no fog (good visibility!): all the ingredients for perfect yacht charter vacations.

Related pages:
How to forecast showers by looking at clouds
The Tower of the winds in Athens
Our logbook from Athens to Milos via Santorini
The ancient Diolkos and the Corinth Canal
Unique climate data of Greece
Sailing the Turkish coasts - Bodrum and Marmaris
Raindrops are spherical

Sunglint on the Aegean - NASA
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5 April 2019
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