The Portuguese Azores islands are located 1500 km from the European continent with an erratic but comfortable weather pattern that blankets these 9 Portuguese islands. These nine islands are located in the North Atlantic and still have a mild year-round climate since it is affected by the gulf stream winds that pass through. The weather fluctuates from, on average, 14.5 degrees Celsius to 25 degrees Celsius being the norm. Portugal is considered the sunniest country in Europe with over 3000 hours of sunlight annually, with the Azores and Madeira islands, deemed to have the warmest winters in all of Europe. This has made these nine magical islands increasingly popular in the winter months with northern European vacationers. The islands are divided into three different regions with Santa Maria and Sao Miguel representing the Eastern group, Graciosa, Faial, Pico, Terceira and Sao Jorge representing the Central group, and Horta and Corvo representing the Western group.
The three regions also represent more or less the various weather patterns that affect the multiple areas. It is not typical for weather affecting the eastern group of islands to affect the islands’ western group and vice versa. The winter months are relatively mild with no snow or frost ever reported on land. However, it does rain a lot from January until March, so it is always recommended to have an umbrella handy. The weather here can change quickly and varies at different points on the island. It would not be uncommon to have rain in one part of the island and then drive 10 minutes and have clear skies and sunshine. It is why the Azores are known to have the four seasons all on the same day.
All nine islands are volcanic in origin. However, there are debates about whether Santa Maria has white sand beaches and has no record of volcanic activity in recorded history. It is said that the islands started to form over 8 million years ago through volcanic eruptions on the ocean floor. The nine islands lay between 3 of the world’s tectonic plates, the North American plate, the Euroasian plate, and the African plate, causing minor earthquakes throughout their history.
The Azores are known for small hurricanes and tropical storms. A total of 14 tropical or subtropical cyclones have affected the region in history. Most of them were tropical storms when they impacted the area, although several Category 1 hurricanes have reached the Azores. The following storms have affected the region while at Category 1 strength: Hurricane Fran in 1973, Hurricane Emmy in 1976, Hurricane Gordon in 2006, Hurricane Gordon in 2012, and Hurricane Alex in 2016. Several tropical storms have hit the region, including Tropical Storm Irma in 1978, Hurricane Bonnie in 1992, Hurricane Charley in 1992, Hurricane Erika in 1997, and Hurricane Gaston in 2016. Storms that were extra-tropical when they impacted the region include Hurricane Tanya in 1995, Tropical Storm Ana in 2003, and Tropical Storm Grace in 2009. Also, in 2005 the famous Azores subtropical storm impacted the region in October 2005, which ended up being milder than expected by the time it reached the Azores. As you can imagine being located in such a secluded area in the mid-Atlantic that the weather would change at a moment’s notice depending on the Atlantic winds. The saying that you experience 4 seasons in a day is certainly true and it is best to come prepared if visiting in the winter although mild expect rain.