What the Book Says

Ukraine lies in the temperate climatic zone and is influenced by moderately warm, humid air from the Atlantic Ocean and the Black Sea. Winters in the west are considerably milder than those in the east. In summer, on the other hand, the east often experiences higher temperatures than the west. Average annual temperatures range from 42-45 F (5.5-7 C) in the north to 52-55 F (11-13 C) in the south. The average temperature in January, the coldest month, is 26 F (-3 C) in the southwest and 18 F (-8 C) in the northeast (Kharkov). The average in July, the hottest month, is 73 F (23 C) in the southeast (Donetsk) and 64 F (18 C) in the northwest.

Precipitation is uneven, with two to three times as much falling in the warmer seasons as in the cold. Maximum precipitation generally occurs in June and July, while the minimum falls in February. Snow falls mainly in late November and early December, varying in depth from a few inches in the Steppe region to several feet in the Carpathians. Western Ukraine, notably the Carpathian Mountains area, receives the
highest annual precipitation--more than 47 inches (1,200 millimetres). The lowlands along the Black Sea and in the Crimea, by contrast, receive less than 16 inches annually. The remaining areas of Ukraine receive 16 to 24 inches of precipitation.

The southern shore of the Crimea has a warm, gentle, Mediterranean-type climate. Winters are mild and rainy, with little snow, and the average January temperature is 39 F (4 C). Summers are dry and hot, with an average July temperature of 75 F (24 C).

Observations from Experience

The information above can be found in any encyclopedia. I don't think it does the weather justice. Averages are always going to skew reality. For example the average annual temperature quoted above is useless. Therefore, I'm going to try and flesh out the picture a little from my own experience.

First, a word about seasons. Most of us are use to having four fairly distinct seasons a year. I remember two in Ukraine. Winter and Summer. Spring and Fall were 3-4 week transistional periods. It is basically cold from October to the middle of April. May is Spring, then it's hot from June through the middle of September. Mid-September to mid-October is Autumn. There is a fair amount of seasonal variation in the amount of daylight. In Summer, the sun is up from about 5:00 AM til 9:30 PM, and in Winter from 7:30 AM til 4:30 PM

The Donetsk Mission is actually one of the warmest of the Russian speaking missions. Its proximity to the sea helps moderate the weather. However, "warm" here is a relative term. Donetsk is at about the same latitude as the U.S.-Canadian border, and the temperatures are correspondingly cool. The two winters I was there (94-95, and 95-96) were similar. On average it was around -8 to -10 C. (+14 to +18 F), but cold snaps of -20 to -30 C (-4 to -22 F) weren't uncommon (The year before I got there I'm told it reached -40 C (-40 F) for about three weeks). Nights were about 5-8 C colder. That can feel very cold after 6 hours of street contacting. Some areas of the mission are also windy, which adds an additional chill factor. It didn't snow excessively. 3-4 inches every 2 weeks or so. One weird thing: both Januarys I was there we had a thaw, it would get up to 5 C (40 F) for a week or so, and it rained very cold rain. I don't know if that's the norm or not. Needless to say, good boots, coats and gloves are essential. Also a neck warmer or scarf. Dressing in layers in highly recommended, as apartments aren't generally well heated.

Summers are quite pleasant. Temperatures are generally in the 70's or 80's. Occasionally there will be a mini-heat wave, it even reached 40 C (104 F) several times while I was there. The air is not excessively humid but, frequently, thunderstorms will build up in the late afternoons leading to sudden intense cloudbursts which are gone by evening, which can be muggy. This weather leads to the growth of large, fast, surprisingly intelligent mosquitos (they learn from the mistakes of their comrades), especially in Dnepropetrovsk and Zaporozhye (on the Dnepr river). I highly recommend bringing repellant.

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