Caribbean Heat

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Caribbean Summer Heat & Humidity

Some people imagine summer in the Caribbean as a hothouse or steam room, where every stitch of clothing sticks to them. How enjoyable can that be?

But how bad is the heat, really?

Actually, the Caribbean has a tremendous range of temperatures. At sea level and in the lowland jungle when there's no breeze, the middle of the day is just as sweltering as you can possibly imagine. You do have to be a mad dog or an Englishman to go out in the noonday sun without a hat in these conditions.

But that is the extreme example. Most resort area enjoy a nice Caribbean breeze that make conditions feel much cooler than they would, for instance, in Florida with the same heat and humidity.

Fortunately, the Caribbean's best hiking and walking is in the mountains or cool rain forests. Much Caribbean hiking is above the 1,000-foot mark, more often at the 2,000- to 3,000-foot level, sometimes going as high as 10,000 feet.

Temperatures are much lower at those levels, regardless of what the thermometer reads at the seashore. Factor in the constant trade winds and you may have more trouble staying warm than keeping cool if you go underdressed.

For instance, in Puerto Rico's Caribbean National Forest (El Yunque) they have worked out the following temperature chart:

     Sea level: 80 degrees

     500-1,800 feet: 75 degrees

     1,800-2,400 feet: 70 degrees

     2,400-3,000 feet: 65 degrees

     3,000-3,500 feet: 60 degrees

 And so on. It drops about 5 degrees for every 500-600 feet, according to these statistics.

However, in Jamaica's Blue Mountains, they estimate a 3-degree drop for every 1,000 feet of altitude, quite a different reckoning.   

Whose figures are correct? And why such disparity? Both temperature estimates may indeed be correct. Then again, information in the Caribbean is often contradictory and conflicting.

Who is correct is not important. The essential point chilly in the Caribbean.

It can also get cold at even relatively low altitudes if it rains, which it often does, especially between June and October. Climb Pico Duarte in January and you may wake up with frost on the ground.

Besides cold temperatures, in exposed places you will encounter trade winds that can reach 20-22 mph. So the problem often isn't the heat, it's figuring how to stay warm.

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