British Virgin Islands: Weather Overview

Sunday 25 June
15:23 GMT | 11:23 AST
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About British Virgin Islands

  • Capital: Road Town
  • Area: 153km2
  • Population: 21,730
  • Currency: Dollar (USD)

About British Virgin Islands

The British Virgin Islands bask in a tropical maritime climate. Rainfall is moderately low for tropical islands and the year can be split into a wet and a dry season according to rainfall levels. There is little seasonal variation in temperature. Due to their position the islands are susceptible to hurricanes. The hurricane season lasts from June till November though the area is at greatest risk in October and November.

There is little temperature variation across the year; average highs generally sit around 30°C and average lows, occurring at night, are in the low to mid 20s. High temperatures are soothed by cooling northeast trade winds. The sea is always in the mid to high 20s – perfect for swimming and diving.

Dry Season: January – July

As might be expected, the dry season sees much lower rainfall than the wet season. However, as these are tropical islands showers are still quite frequent. They are generally heavy but brief leaving plenty of sunshine. There is a brief spike in rainfall in May but otherwise rainfall is moderate. This is the best time of year to visit the islands as it is slightly cooler, around 28°C which is made to feel cooler by lower humidity, sunnier and drier.

Wet Season: August – December

Rainfall jumps up from the beginning of the season and peaks in October and November. This time of year is not ruled out by holidaymakers as rainfall is quite brief and followed by the usual brilliant sunshine and clear blue skies. Rain also concentrates on the mountainous interiors of the islands. However, tropical rain is a serious business; there is no dilly-dallying involved; the clouds darken, the air pressure suddenly drops and sheets of rain plummet to the earth. Aside from practical annoyances heavy rainfall can cause tourists, it can also result in flash flooding, landslides and mudslides which can result in immense structural damage as well as harm to human life.

Last year (November 2008) the British Virgin Islands suffered severe floods that were declared a major disaster. Such nastiness is usually restricted to the hurricane season which lasts from June till November. Travelling to the islands during this period should be preceded by a thorough check of hurricane activity in the area as these potentially devastating tropical cyclones can have detrimental effects on suntanning schedules, not to mention hairstyles.

The wet season is slightly hotter than the dry season, around 31°C and this is made uncomfortable by the high humidity.

Regional Variation

The northeast direction of the prevailing winds and the mountainous topography of these islands mean that northeast areas and mountainsides see higher rainfall and slightly cooler temperatures than areas in the southeast. It is generally cooler at higher altitudes.

 

Other Information

The consistently high temperature, abundance of rain and nutrient rich waters of the Gulf Stream have lead to a flourishing of underwater life. Coral reefs thrive and are home to a great diversity of marine animals from sharks and dolphins to turtles to glittering shoals of tropical fish. On land a huge variety of habitats can be found from the tourist-luring white beaches to sea grass meadows and mangrove swamps. As such the islands are not only popular with water sport enthusiasts such as windsurfers and scuba divers, but to nature lovers and scientists. Next to the British Virgin Islands are the U.S. Virgin Islands and almost the whole of St. John Island, to the northwest of Tortula, and thousands of acres around it make up a treasured national park. Unsurprisingly, tourism has become a major earner for the islands’ economy, though still second to their financial services industry. Concerns have been raised around the impact of tourism on the islands’ environment, but they are not exactly poster islands of the “spoilt by tourism” complaint; beaches remain pristine and the coral largely intact. Damage to the coral is blamed on nearby islands; the British Virgin Islands have an incredibly low pollution output but their corals are subject to polluted waters brought from other islands by sea currents. Coral is also particularly susceptible to climate change and again, with its low pollution levels, the British Virgin Islands do not share the blame.

The British Virgin Islands are a British Overseas Territory, once called a Crown Colony. The islands sit to the east of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Sea and are part of the Lesser Antilles, a string of volcanic islands full of famous tropical resorts that thread from the Venezuelan coast of South America to the start of the Greater Antilles, which include Jamaica and Cuba. They curl round the Caribbean Sea, splitting it from the North Atlantic Ocean. The British Virgin Islands comprise of around sixty Caribbean islands and islets which are typically hilly, rugged and thickly vegetated. A few of the British Virgin Islands feature low, flat topography, notably Anegada and its surrounding islands to the northeast of the main island of Tortola, as they are composed of limestone and coral rather than volcanic rock.

 

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