Climate in Rome Italy
The climate in Rome, Italy has varied through the ages – this is little news or at least hardly surprising, except when placed in the context of ancient Rome. Within this article about the climate in Rome, Italy we have a brief look at the impact of Rome’s climate on ancient Rome as well as outlining the prevalent weather in Rome nowadays.
Impact of climate on ancient Rome
It appears the weather in central Italy was generally cooler than it is now by a couple of degrees and that the general warming which came about at that very time enabled a variety of crops to acclimatise and become useful in Italic/Roman agriculture.
Interesting findings from Pompeii show how the range of plants across the 1st century BC and 1st century AD varied as new and exotic varieties entered from abroad – Roman expansion across the mediterranean greatly aided the entry of new species from across the then known world. Examples include the Peach and the Lemon tree: Pliny tells us of the efforts made to grow these plants and others locally.
Another “intruder” was grain both hard and soft which greatly revolutionised bread and cake making as well as the development of bakeries, the possibility of large extensive farming of these. The appearance of glass brought further impulse as it implied a great improvement in the possibilities of conserving vegetable produce, greatly facilitating the process versus amphoras and clay containers. This in turn helped the development of specialised culture. Glass was also useful for growing produce in glass-houses, out of season.
Pliny remarks for example on the pleasure of moving from the traditional wild asparagus to the huge one grown in Verona. All this is particularly interesting in the Pompeian context where we can see that the libertus with a bakery was becoming increasingly rich and prominent in public life, whilst pressure from foreign produce implied impeding difficulties for Pompeian traditional produce of oil and wine. Would they have simply sunk and gone through serious economic difficulties or simply specialised – for example greenhouses were coming into use. Ie a period of huge change, partly aided by military expansion and partly by climate change.
Defining the climate of Rome today
Rome is situated in a large hilly plain, with the Tyrrhenian coast to the west and the Apennine mountain foothills to the east. It is situated at an average height of 20m above sea level – note, average. It is important to note that the various regions of Rome can experience relatively different weather conditions: The North East closest to the Apennines, the South-West closest to the sea and South-East near to the Alban hills and at situated at over 110m altitude.
The climate of the city can be said to be “temperate”, especially given its latitude and proximity to the sea. The area furthest inland is generally colder than the part lying on the coast. The four seasons show marked (though rarely extreme) variations in temperatures and rainfall. The Spring and Autumn are particularly variable and rainy with thunderstorms.
In Spring winds are predominantly westerly. At the beginning of the season wintery northerly winds will bring disturbance coupled with Atlantic disturbances travelling North-West to South-East. Temperatures may fluctuate by as much as 20deg C. By May the weather tends to stabilise albeit with occasional thunderstorms: As the season progresses towards summer pressure systems are increasingly anticyclonic.
Summer, the month of June tends to be a consolidation of May: increased temperatures albeit with occasional thunderstorms when cold air comes into contact with warm air from the sea. The Azores anticyclone settles over the region and hence July and August tend towards increasingly warm temperatures, stable weather conditions, blue skies and weak winds. The high pressure ensures a good number of sun exposure and the air is heated by conduction from the hot ground. The relatively little air movement also ensures that the air gains a relatively high level of humidity which is particular uncomfortable on the Eastern side of the city and more bearable on the coast where the sea breezes attenuate the feeling of discomfort.
Autumn sees the return of instability. Damp Atlantic winds mixed with warm southerly winds ensure frequent rainfall and a gradual decrease of atmospheric pressure. November is the month with highest average rainfall. By end of November and beginning of December the temperature will have reached its minimum levels yet with some disturbances of colder, dryer, winds from the N/NE.
Winter in Rome is not known for its cold weather although snow can (very infrequently) be seen for very short spells lasting possibly a day or two. This is particularly true when cold weather systems drive down the Apennine range from a N/NE direction.
For more detail regarding the average temperature and weather in Rome please see the Rome weather page.