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Being prepared for Madeira's weather

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Learning to understand and therefore predict the day's weather is something which has occupied the minds of the madeirans themselves for centuries. While it can take a lifetime to become fully proficient in the subtleties of Atlantic cloud formations, and so knowing whether to take that waterproof jacket or not, there are some basic trends in the weather that the visitor should know about.

1) Madeira's capital, Funchal, occupies a natural coastal basin on the south coast of the island and, as such, is sheltered. The weather in and around the town (and to a lesser extent along the whole south coast) is typically warmer and sunnier than on the north of the island. It is also not uncommon for Funchal to be warm when the hills above the town are cloaked in cloud.

2) Because of the prevailing north-easterly wind, the north coast is usually windier and cooler than the south and this can sometimes make life a little harder on northerly walks along Madeira's ‘Levadas' (the Island's famous network of irrigation canals). The sea also tends to be rougher.

3) Porto Santo, Madeira's sister island 40 miles to the north-west, is drier and flatter than its neighbour. As a result it is hotter and windier than Madeira. Between July and October the weather on the island is often dry and sunny – no matter what the weather in Madeira. Locals and visitors alike take advantage of this fact to enjoy Porto Santo's long beaches. It should be noted, however, that even when the weather is good, the sea (and therefore the ferry crossing to the island from Madeira) can be rough.
4) In springtime, an occasional wind blows from the Sahara – known as the ‘Vento do Leste'. This can make the coastal regions hot, humid and dusty. The wind usually only lasts a few days.

5) Wind from any direction is usually a sign of coming change. When the air is calm, one can be reasonably confident nothing is brewing.

There are really only two golden rules when it comes to Madeira's weather. The first is to be prepared – always take waterproofs with you on any excursions, particularly outside the summer months when the weather can be especially changeable. The second is to be philosophical – there is nothing you can about any cloud, wind or rain – and just as it arrives suddenly on one day it can be gone the next.










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