Caribbean Weather Hazards - Know The Best Time To Travel
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Unusual aspects of Caribbean weather
There's an interesting aspect to Caribbean weather which occurs nearly every year during the northern hemisphere's summer and autumn. You may be surprised to learn that dust plumes originating from North Africa impact the Caribbeans during these months.
The first dust event passes over Barbados and Trinidad in June before moving north-westwards. These dust events gradually weaken as they move towards the northern parts of the Caribbean.
Occasionally, when large dust events pass through the region, it not only brings dust, but also insects. A notable example of this occurred back in 1988 when certain parts of Barbados were invaded by African desert locusts which got caught up in the dust cloud.
The following year in October 1989, Trinidad was invaded by more locusts. These locust filled dust clouds originate in North Africa, near the Sahara desert and take 5-8 days to travel across the North Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean islands.
There has been a number of scientific studies that have shown conclusively that the dust carries additional hitch hikers such as fungi and bacteria. This shouldn't worry you as these won't harm you. However, one species of fungus is known to be the main cause the death of the coral in the Caribbeans.
So what's the Caribbean weather like?
Even though the Caribbean islands are in the tropics, it doesn't mean that the temperatures don't fluctuate throughout the Caribbean over the course of a year. The Caribbean weather certainly can feel quite cool in the winter months, particularly in the northern parts as well in the mountainous regions.
Overall the majority of the Caribbean does not vary much in temperature throughout the year at sea-level. The reason for this is simple: the surrounding ocean modifies the air temperatures over the Caribbean islands. Each island has its own unique climate and so the temperature, humidity and rainfall can vary from one island to the next.
For much more detailed information on the Caribbean weather at specific islands, please choose the island of interest below:
General weather conditions for:
Best times to travel
The Caribbean weather is quite nice from January to March or April, and for this reason, this is probably the best time to travel to the Caribbean. During these months, the region doesn't normally experience any hurricanes. However, this is the high season, and thus, accommodation will be quite expensive from January to March.
If you want the flexibility of travelling all-year-round then you may want to consider going to the Dutch Caribbean (i.e. the islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) just off the coast of Venezuela. This region is not normally hit by hurricanes since the hurricanes follow a path further to the north. Furthermore, these islands receive much less rain and more sunshine than all the other islands of the Caribbean so there will hopefully be no severe weather event that will disrupt your holiday plans.
If you're going to travel to the Caribbean during the summer then you'll likely to experience some wet weather.
What months is the Caribbean weather at its wettest?
The Caribbean wet season normally runs from May to October and sometimes extends into November, but the rain isn't evenly distributed across each month.
The Caribbean wet season can be broken into two subcategories:
However, the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is one of the few areas that still receives plenty of rain during July and August.
In the months of September and October, the heaviest rain occurs along the Caribbean coast of Honduras and stretches across the northern coast of Jamaica and Hispaniola (the island made up Haiti and the Dominican Republic). The rain then spreads through Puerto Rico and onto the Lesser Antillean islands.
However, if you're visiting the north western parts of the Caribbean (Cuba and the Bahamas for example), then you're sure to receive some light rain associated with the passage of cold fronts that have swept south from the United States. This occurs from November into December. The heavier rain in this region occurs in late May and early June.
The Caribbean weather on the island of Dominica is usually warm and very wet. In fact, it is the wettest of any Caribbean island, receiving just over 7600 millimeters (300 inches) of rain a year.
This high rainfall occurs only in the mountainous areas in the centre of the island. The rainfall is heaviest high up in the mountains but becomes lighter with a decrease in elevation. Obviously that means that the rain is less frequent and generally lighter at sea-level. This is great for you since most of the tourist accommodation are found at sea-level.
So don't worry about the rain if you're thinking of visiting here as it won't rain all the time (especially if you're staying on the western side of the island). Many coastal villages on the western side of Dominica only receive around 1000 mm (39 inches) of rain annually. If you want to stay on the eastern part of the island then you can expect much more rain. It has an annual rainfall total of around 3000mm (118 inches).
One of the reasons why the central parts of Dominica has the highest rainfall is due to the fact that about 60% of the island is still covered in natural vegetation (most of it is lush rainforest). In fact, it has the largest expanse of rainforest out of any of the Lesser Antillean islands. This rainforest combined with the mountainous terrain tend to trap rain bearing weather systems.
Severe Caribbean weather - floods
The Caribbean weather can be quite interesting since the eastern part of an island can have up to three times as much rain than the western side of the same island. The eastern side is the preferred location for the occurrence of a thunderstorm on the Caribbean island since most of thunderstorm activity comes in from the east This is particularly true for the mountainous islands of Cuba, Jamaica, Saint Lucia and Dominica.
Cuba recently had its worst floods in 40 years when a tropical storm hit the eastern side. This occurred from 11th October to 5th November 2007. Around 80,000 people had to be evacuated, and overall, 22,000 homes in the east were flooded or washed away. The last time floods this large affected Cuba back in 1963.
The official Caribbean dry season occurs in the winter from January through to March. The temperatures during this time are only marginally cooler (of the order of 1-2°C) than the summer months. However, it is less humid and there is normally quite a lot of sunshine.
This time of year is a great time to visit but remember a lot of other people travel since the Caribbean weather is more bearable and stable.
In the summer, the humidity levels rise and so does the temperature. Temperatures above 36°C (97°F) are rare and if they do occur they only last a day or two. The most frequent region where this can occur is in the south eastern parts of Cuba.
The typical maximum daytime temperatures ranges between 29-32°C (84-90°F). At night time in summer, the minimum temperatures drop to around 24°C (75°F) with at least five nights where the temperature doesn't drop below 28°C (82°F). So if you want to experience the ultimate sauna-like experience, then come in summer. Not only is it hot but so are the prices. Most accommodation is much cheaper in the summer since everyone is worried about the hurricanes at this time of year. If you too are worried about where hurricanes hit most frequently in the Caribbean's, then you can obtain more information about this here.
The temperatures during the summer months are controlled by the near constant north-easterly winds. These winds tend to enhance the sea breeze on the eastern side of the islands in the afternoon. You may think that you're going to be blown away but the wind does decrease a little after sunset. The western side of the islands tend to be less windy and are generally warmer than the eastern side. So, you can choose what weather you like to have based on where you stay on that island.
If you're thinking of going swimming then the sea-surface temperatures in summer hover around 26-29°C (79-84°F). The ocean temperature is a little cooler in the southern parts of the Caribbean due to the constant upwelling (i.e cold water rises to the surface due to the wind pushing the warmer water towards the western Caribbean) and this also prevents cloud formation, suppressing rainfall and reduces the likelihood of hurricane activity. The main Caribbean islands affected by this are: Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao.
The temperatures at night in the winter months vary from as low as 10°C (50°F) in the far northern parts of the Caribbean around western Cuba and the northern Bahamas to as warm as 22-23°C (72-73°F) in the southern Antillean Islands. During the daytime in winter, the maximum temperature can vary from 24-25°C (75-77°F) in the northern parts, to 29-31°C (84-88°F) in the southern areas.
In fact, the northern parts of the Caribbean (particularly the Bahamas) is occasionally subject to quite large variations in temperature. A notable example of this occurred on the 19th January 1977 when the northern part of the Bahamas received a light dusting of snow. Both the locals as well as the tourists were absolutely amazed this could actually occur.
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