The Climate Of The Caribbean Islands

The Climate Of The Caribbean Islands

Source: The Library Of Congress Country Studies

The Caribbean climate is tropical, moderated to a certain extent by the prevailing northeast trade winds. Individual climatic conditions are strongly dependent on elevation. At sea level there is little variation in temperature, regardless of the time of the day or the season of the year. Temperatures range between 24°C-75.2F and 32°C-89.6ºF. In Kingston, Jamaica, the mean temperature is 26°C-78.8ºF, whereas Mandeville, at a little over 600 meters high in the Carpenters Mountains of Manchester Parish, has recorded temperatures as low as 10°C-50ºF. Daylight hours tend to be shorter during summer and slightly longer during winter than in the higher latitudes. The conventional division, rather than the four seasons, is between the long rainy season from May through October and the dry season, corresponding to winter in the northern hemisphere.

Even during the rainy period, however, the precipitation range fluctuates greatly. Windward sides of islands with mountains receive much rain, whereas leeward sides can have very dry conditions. Flat islands receive slightly less rainfall, but its pattern is more consistent. For example, the Blue Mountains of eastern Jamaica record around 558 centimeters of rainfall per year, whereas Kingston, on the southeastern coast, receives only 399 centimeters. Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados, has an average annual rainfall of 127 centimeters, while Bathsheba on the central east coast receives 254 centimeters–despite the fact that Bathsheba is only about 27 kilometers away by road. Recording stations in the Northern Range in Trinidad measure some 302 centimeters of rainfall per year, while at Piarco Airport on the Caroni Plains the measurement is only 140 centimeters. Most of the rainfall occurs during short heavy outbursts during daylight hours. In Jamaica, about 80 percent of the rainfall occurs during the day. The period of heaviest rainfall usually occurs after the sun has passed directly overhead, which in the Caribbean islands would be sometime around the middle of May and again in early August. The rainy season also coincides with the disastrous summer hurricane season, although Barbados, too far east, and Trinidad and Tobago, too far south, seldom experience hurricanes.

Hurricanes are a constant feature of most of the Caribbean, with a “season” of their own lasting from June to November. Hurricanes develop over the ocean (usually in the eastern Caribbean) during the summer months when the sea surface temperature is high (over 27°C) and the air pressure falls below 950 millibars. These conditions create an “eye” about 20 kilometers wide, around which a steep pressure gradient forms that generates wind speeds of 110 to 280 kilometers per hour. The diameter of hurricanes can extend as far as 500 to 800 kilometers and produce extremely heavy rainfalls as well as considerable destruction of property. The recent history of the Caribbean echoes with the names of destructive hurricanes: Janet (1955), Donna (1960), Hattie (1961), Flora (1963), Beulah (1967), Celia and Dorothy (1970), Eloise (1975), David (1979), and Allen (1980).

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The Caribbean Basin

The Caribbean Basin

The Caribbean Basin is generally defined as the area running from Florida westward along the Gulf coast, then south along the Mexican coast through Central America and then eastward across the northern coast of South America. This region includes the islands of the archipelago of the West Indies. Bermuda is also included within the region even though it is in the west-central Atlantic, due to its common cultural history created by European colonization of the region, and in most of the region by the presence of a significant group of African descent.

History

The Caribbean basin as a region may be said to have its origins in the migrations of the Caribs  from the Orinoco Valley in modern Venezuela into the Caribbean Sea beginning around 1200, which created an intercommunicating zone that connected places as far north as Puerto Rico, Hispaniola (modern Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and  Jamaica to the mid reaches of the Orinoco River. The Spanish entered the region following Columbus’ voyage of 1492 and began the colonization of the larger islands of the Greater Antilles, but they were unable to colonize the smaller islands of the Lesser Antilles. However, Spanish conquests jumping off from Cuba to Darién (in Panamá), the Yucatán, and then Mexico after 1514 created a new intercommunicating zone that included the Central American mainland. Although the Spanish were successful in integrating the coast of Mexico, including northern Yucatán in their empire, and the Pacific side of Central America, they failed to conquer the Caribbean (or Atlantic) coasts of Central America from Guatemala down to Panamá.

In the late sixteenth century, French, English and Dutch merchants and privateers began their operations in the Caribbean, attacking Spanish and Portuguese shipping and coastal areas. They often took refuge and refitted their ships in the areas the Spanish could not conquer, including the islands of the Lesser Antilles, the northern coast of South America including the mouth of the Orinoco, and the Atlantic Coast of Central America. In the Lesser Antilles they managed to establish a foothold following the colonization of St Kitts in 1624 and Barbados in 1626, and when the Sugar Revolution took off in the mid-seventeenth century, they brought in thousands of African slaves to work the fields and mills. These African slaves wrought a demographic revolution, replacing or joining biologically with the indigenous Caribs or the earlier European settlers who had come as indentured servants.

The struggle between the northern Europeans and the Spanish spread southward in the mid to late seventeenth century, as English, Dutch, French and Spanish colonists, and in many cases their slaves from Africa first entered and then occupied the coast of The Guianas (which fell to the French, English and Dutch) and the Orinoco valley, which fell to the Spanish. The Dutch, allied with the Caribs of the Orinoco would eventually carry the struggles deep into South America, first along the Orinoco and then along the northern reaches of the Amazon.

Meanwhile, no European country occupied much of Central America, although gradually the English of Jamaica established alliances with the Miskito Kingdom of modern day Nicaragua and Honduras, and then began logging on the coast of modern day Belize. These interconnected commercial and diplomatic relations made up the Western Caribbean Zone which was in place in the early eighteenth century. In the Miskito Kingdom, the rise to power of the Miskito-Zambos who originated in the survivors of a rebellion aboard a slave ship in the 1640s and the introduction of African slaves by British settlers within the Miskito area and in Belize British Honduras also transformed this area into one with a high percentage of persons of African descent as was found in most of the rest of the Caribbean.

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Links of interest:

The Gastrosite of Spanish recipes  — The Gastrosite of….on Facebook Some Pieces of the French Cuisine  — –  The French Cuisine as It Really Is —  The Italian Cuisine as It Really is — InterGastroLinksLa Isla Bonita Caribbean Recipes —  PhotoGastrosite by Carlos MIrasierras —  Carlos Mirasierras on Scribd — Carlos Mirasierras on Pinterest —  Gastronomía Española por Carlos MirasierrasLa Cocina BritánicaCarlos Mirasierras google +

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