The Caribbean region consists of the Caribbean Sea, its islands, and the surrounding coasts. The region is located south of North America, east of Central America, and north of South America, and the Caribbean islands are located in the Caribbean Sea, or border both the sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. The region is mainly situated on the Caribbean Plate and includes more than 700 islands, reefs, islets, and cays. The Caribbean islands consist of the Greater Antilles and the Lesser Antilles in the north and south, respectively, and these two groups of islands are part of the larger West Indies. Geopolitically, the Caribbean is considered a sub-region of North America, and is organized into 30 territories, including independent nations, dependencies, and oversees departments. The region experiences a tropical climate and is sunny much of the year.
Climate of the Caribbean
The climate of the Caribbean is tropical, varying from tropical savanna to tropical rainforest. Some parts of the region also experience arid and semi-arid climates with considerable drought. The Caribbean climate is moderated by prevailing northeast trade winds. The warm, moist trade winds may also create semi-arid climates and rain forest climates across the region. Climatic conditions are also dependent on elevation. Temperatures range from warm to hot all year round, with at least one distinct wet season each year. The wet season mainly coincides with the Atlantic Ocean's hurricane season, which runs from June to November. However, hurricanes occur more frequently from August to September and are common in the northern islands of the Caribbean. Temperature and precipitation vary across the region, depending mainly on elevation. Areas near sea level experience little variation compared to areas of higher elevations. The seasons are conventionally divided into two, rainy and dry, rather than four seasons (winter, spring, summer, and fall).
Rainy Season in the Caribbean
While the Caribbean is generally sunny throughout the year, the region also receives a substantial amount of rainfall. The rainy season varies from island to island, but generally starts in May and lasts until the end of December. Additionally, the amount of precipitation fluctuates greatly. Islands that have mountains tend to get more rain on the windward side than the leeward side, whereas flat islands receive less but consistent levels of rainfall. For instance, Jamaica receives an average of 450 centimeters of rainfall, while Barbados receives an average of 160 centimeters. Given the tropical front that characterizes the Caribbean from about mid-August to the end of October, these months receive the highest amounts of rainfall. During these months, some resorts are closed, and those that remain open receive fewer visitors. Most rainfall occurs during the day after the sun has passed directly overhead. The rainy season also coincides with hurricane season.
Dry Season of the Caribbean
Dry season in the Caribbean lasts from February until June. This is the ideal time to visit most Caribbean islands since there is plenty of sunshine. However, the dry season is not entirely dry, as the northern islands receive small amounts of rainfall. The rainfall during the dry season is associated with the passage of cold fronts. The dry season is also characterized by less wind, stable conditions, clear skies, and very few showers. Although the Caribbean experiences two distinct seasons, wet and dry, there is little variation in temperature. The temperature varies from 25 °C to 33 °C between the dry and wet seasons. Seasonally, the mean monthly temperature varies by only 5 °C in the northern regions and 3 °C in the southern regions. The sea surface temperature also changes only marginally, from 26 °C during cool months to 30 °C in warm months.
Distinct Climates in Popular Caribbean Islands
Jamaica is one of the most popular islands in the Caribbean. It experiences a tropical climate with hot and humid weather. The warm, tropical weather makes the island a preferred tourist destination. The temperature varies from 22 °C to 31 °C, and the mornings and evenings are always the coolest times of the day. Jamaica receives an average of 80 inches of rainfall annually, but certain locations, such as the Blue Mountains, may receive as much as 300 inches. Since the island is located on a hurricane belt, it always suffers severe storm damage.
The Dominican Republic is situated on the island of Hispaniola. It has a tropical rainforest climate, with significant variations over short distances due to its diverse topography. The mean annual temperature at higher elevations is 18 °C, while areas at sea level have an average temperature of 28 °C. August is the hottest month of the year, while January and February are the coolest. The wet season lasts from November to January along the northern coast, and May to November elsewhere on the island. The Dominican Republic receives an average annual rainfall of 59.1 inches, although some locations, such as Valle de Neiba, receive as little as 13 inches.
The Bahamas is located within the Lucayan Archipelago and consists of more than 700 islands and islets. The archipelago country experiences a tropical savanna climate that is characterized by warm and winterless seasons. Although the Bahamas does not receive snow, temperatures can drop below 10 °C for a few hours, especially after a cold outbreak comes from the North American mainland. The temperature difference between the warmest and the coldest months is only 7 °C. The islands receive seasonal rainfall, which mainly follows the sun. The islands of the Bahamas are sunny and dry most of the time.
Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States. It is situated in the northern part of the Caribbean, approximately 1,000 miles from Miami, Florida. The climate of Puerto Rico is classified as a tropical rainforest climate and is characterized by warm to hot temperatures throughout the year. The annual temperature averages 29 °C in areas of low elevation and 21 °C on the mountains. The rainy season stretches from April to November. The Cordillera Central mountain range is responsible for variations in rainfall and temperature, which can vary over short distances. The island also experiences a hurricane season, and 25% of its rainfall comes from tropical cyclones. Puerto Rico receives an average annual rainfall of 56.4 inches, and November is the wettest month.