Ionian Sea & Weather

Weather conditions, Winds, Current & Tides in the Ionian Sea during the sailing season.

The Ionian is an elongated bay of the Mediterranean Sea. It is connected to the Adriatic Sea to the north, Calabria to the west, southern Italy, including Sicily, and the Salento Peninsula, southern Albania (and western Puglia in Italy), and the Peloponnese to the west. All major islands east of the sea belong to Greece. Collectively they are called the Ionian Islands, the main ones being Corfu, Kefalonia, Zakynthos, Lefkada and Ithaca. The are around 20 more islets in the Ionian Sea.

Depth of the Ionian Sea

In the Ionian Sea, south of Greece, the Mediterranean Sea reaches its greatest depth of 5,109 m (16,762 ft) above sea level. It is called Calypso Deep located at 36°34’N, 21°8’E. The Ionian is one of the most seismically active regions in the world.

Currents & Tides of the Ionian Sea

The surface currents in the Ionian Sea are roughly counter-clockwise: they flow towards the north up the Greek coast and then turn west and south along the Italian coast. In general this current is not very strong and it rarely exceeds 1.2 knots. You can get up to date maps of surface current, temperature, and water elevation (tides) from the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research.

In general the tides in the Ionian Sea are weak – about 10-50 cm

Salinity of the Ionian Sea

The sea water has a deep blue hue, in contrast to the azure Aegean. This is the saltiest sea in Greece – the salinity level is 38% (20% higher than in the Black Sea), making it easy to keep on the water even for those who do not know how to swim.

Sea Temperature of the Ionian Sea

Water temperature depends not only on solar radiation within the same region, but also on ocean currents. For example, depending on the season, cold or warm water masses are moved from other areas. The warmest water temperatures on the Ionian Islands are in August, when the water is 26 °C.

The temperature of the sea in the area of the Ionian Islands is high enough for swimming from June to September. In May, it is still a little cool, around 19 °C, but all in all, it’s acceptable.

Waves in the Ionian Sea

When sailing at the east of the islands (close to the mainland coast) waves are small. Hence sailing is not obstructed by the waves and the nights are usually safe, as the wind fade out in night hours. Moreover, take into account that the wide bays at the western coast of the islands (Corfu, Lefkada, Kefalonia, Zante) are not suitable to stay overnight on anchor, as the waves from the open sea might come strong at any time. 

Climate & Weather Conditions in the Ionian Sea

The Ionian islands boast a gentle and moderate climate, rendering them a perfect choice for vacations or habitation. During the winter months, the mountains of Central Greece serve as a barrier, shielding the islands from the chilly northern winds. Conversely, in the summer season, the warmth is mitigated by the gentle northwestern winds and refreshing sea breezes. Thanks to the prevailing air patterns around the Ionian islands, numerous beaches on these islands have evolved into globally renowned hubs for windsurfing.

Winds in the Ionian Sea

During the summer period, the winds within the Ionian region exhibit a notably reliable pattern. Starting from late May until the conclusion of September, the Maistro wind originates from the North West and sweeps down onto the Ionian Islands. Typically, this wind picks up during the early afternoon, ranging from F3-6 on the Beaufort scale, and subsides as the evening approaches. Unlike the more easterly parts of Greece, the Ionian area is not greatly affected by the forceful Meltemi winds.

The dominant wind’s trajectory is influenced and guided by the substantial mountainous terrains in its path, which can lead to rapid fluctuations in both intensity and direction. It’s generally most forceful during the months of July and August.

Weather Forecasts

The weather forecasts issued by the Hellenic National Meteorological Service (HNMS) are provided to navigators in the following ways:

Internet: Up to date forecasts are published on the official site of the HNMS.

VHF: VHF channel 16 broadcasts Gale Warnings as well as regular forecasts, upon vessel request.

Hellenic National Meteorological Service forecasts can also be communicated to vessels via any local Port Authority, upon calling local channel 12 or channels VHF 07, 18, 19, 20 and 2, depending on the locale of navigation.

StationChan.WX Bulletin ( UTC )
Chios850600-1000-1600-2000
Kefallonia270600-1000-1600-2000
Kerkyra020600-1000-1600-2000
Knossos830600-1000-1600-2000
Kythira850600-1000-1600-2000
Limnos820600-1000-1600-2000
Moustakos040600-1000-1600-2000
Mytilini010600-1000-1600-2000
Parnis250600-1000-1600-2000
Patra850600-1000-1600-2000
Petalidi830600-1000-1600-2000
Pilio600600-1000-1600-2000
Rodos630600-1000-1600-2000
Sitia850600-1000-1600-2000
Syros040600-1000-1600-2000
Sfendami230600-1000-1600-2000

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