Weatherwatch: the climate of the Leeward Islands

Eastern Caribbean islands enjoy pleasant weather all year, but are also prone to tropical storms and hurricanes

Situated in the eastern Caribbean Sea, the Leeward Islands (and their more southerly counterparts, the Windward Islands) were so-named by the early Spanish and British explorers during the days of sail-power. The name derives from their geographical position relative to the direction of the wind. Today they form the northern islands of the Lesser Antilles chain, and include the Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Montserrat and Guadeloupe.

Like much of the Caribbean region, the Leeward Islands have a very pleasant and equable climate: sunny and warm almost all-year-round, with very little difference in temperatures between winter and summer. The rainy season is from July through to November; though rain can and does fall in any month of the year.

Unfortunately, these islands are also slap-bang in the middle of the track for tropical storms and hurricanes, which mostly occur in late summer and autumn. The most severe of these, Hurricane Irma, struck in September 2017, and caused extensive damage – especially in Antigua and Barbuda.

At its peak, the winds – accompanied by torrential rains – blew at 180mph (290kph) for more than 36 hours, making it the most powerful hurricane in history. Fortunately, the majority of the damage was quickly repaired, and the tourism business, on which these islands so heavily depend, reopened a few weeks afterwards.

Contributor

Stephen Moss

The GuardianTramp

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