Canary Islands: Weather Overview
About Canary Islands
About Canary Islands
The Canary Islands are a Spanish archipelago located off the west coast of Africa. From west to east the main islands are La Palma, La Gomera, Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. The islands’ mild temperatures are why they have long been known as ‘the islands of eternal spring.’ The mild climate occurs largely because of the islands’ location in the path of the Canary current. The Canary current is a cool ocean current which flows toward the southwest. The islands lie blocking this current so they are directly affected by these cooler waters. Temperatures on the islands are usually a couple of degrees cooler than expected at their latitude.
The archipelago generally experiences mild winters and warm summers. Year round the Canary Islands receive warm, sunny weather with an average temperature that ranges from 17°C in the winter to 24°C in the summer. There are rarely major temperature extremes, though it is not uncommon for the mercury to rise above 30°C in the peak of summer, especially in eastern areas. The islands closer to Africa are hotter and drier than those to the west. The Canary Islands are often associated with having the best climate in the world due to its spring-like weather all year round, with an annual average temperature of 21°C (71.6°F). The Canaries also boast over 3000 hours of sunlight a year and even 4800 hours of daylight, making the islands the sunniest part of Europe, with the largest amount of daylight hours. This is largely down to the islands position next to the Western Sahara and southern Morocco.
The Canary Islands offer some of the clearest skies in the world due to the trade winds and the thermal inversion which prevents cloud formation. Furthermore, the Canaries are protected by the Law for the Protection of the Astronomical Quality for the Conservatives of the Canary Islands Astrophysics Institute, which controls atmospheric light pollution and even regulates flight routes so the skies are crystal clear throughout the year. This also means that the Canary Islands are regarded as one of the best places on earth to observe space and even features a number of Astrophysics observatories.
Across each island it is generally safe to say that the weather varies from the north to the south. The northwest coasts of the islands are often significantly cooler and wetter than the south coasts as the northeast is exposed to the predominant northeast trade winds but the west is exposed to hot, dry winds from the African continent. The difference in weather conditions from north to south is most pronounced in the winter when true beach weather can develop in the middle of winter in the south while it is rarely warm enough to be without a light sweater in the north. As a result, the flora and fauna can also vary from north to south. The north coasts are luscious while the southern slopes are usually sunny deserts.
For hundreds of years the Canary Islands have been known for the beneficial health properties of their super year round climate. Travellers from around the world continue to visit the islands for this very reason, to relax and revitalize. Due to the Canaries extraordinary climate, long hours of sunshine, fresh sea breeze, warm waters and a natural volcanic landscape, they are one of the best holiday destinations for the whole family. Not only is the weather in the Canary Islands unbeatable, they also offer a number of super activities for the whole family such as water sports, whale watching, spas, hiking, golf, water parks and much more. Each island is also unique in character from the dramatic coastline of El Hierro Island to the spectacular volcanic landscape of Lanzarote, where you will find Mount Teide, the highest mountain in Spain.
Unwind in Tenerife, Canary Islands.
The winter months last from November to March and are only slightly cooler compared to the summer, but are still considered as paradise compared to most of mainland Europe and North America. For the best rates you may want to visit the Canary Islands during November and mid-December as the airfares and accommodation generally tend to be a lot cheaper at this time of year, plus it is still pleasantly warm. Believe it or not, the winter months are actually one of the busiest seasons in the Canary Islands as many people vacate to the Canaries to escape from the cold, harsh weather back home. In the winter months the daily highs are about 17°C and nightly lows are rarely cooler than 8°C. Daily sunshine hours range from an average of six per day in winter, compared to as many as twelve in the summer months.
During winter there are occasional stormy wet periods as the weather is disturbed by the influence of an Atlantic depression, however, these periods are not overly frequent. Across the islands the levels of rainfall often differ due to the north-easterly winds, which means on average most precipitation is deposited in the north east, while the southern area tends to remain a lot more dry and sunny. For example, in Tenerife, the island receives on average 66mm of rainfall in January, while Gran Canaria is likely to receive 30mm of precipitation.
In the summer months (from June to September) the daily highs in the Canaries generally sit around 27°C. At nighttime the mercury will fall to about 18°C. Fog and cloud may occur sporadically in the summer months, but as a whole summer is usually dry and sunny.
Las Americas Beach Adeje coast Beach in south Tenerife, Canary Islands.
Occasionally, hot, dry air blows from the Sahara desert. This is when the warmest days in summer will occur. Once the wind reaches the islands it is significantly cooler than on the coast of Africa; it cools as it passes over the cold ocean water. The Canary Islands also often experience heat waves during the summer months. In May 2012, temperatures in Gran Canaria exceeded a sweltering 37°C, when at this time of year it is more common for temperatures to hover between 22°C and 27°C. Furthermore, one of the hottest days ever recorded in the Canary Islands was in Lanzarote on August 6th in 1980, when temperatures reached a high of 43.6°C, which is well above the average at this time of year. When visiting the Canary Islands during the summer season always make sure to top up on water and sun cream and stay in the shade when it’s hot.
Snowfall is usually very rare in the Canary Islands, however, it is not unheard of. Recently, in January 2014, snow fell in the area of Las Mesas, found at the summit of Gran Canaria. Similar weather conditions occurred in high areas of Tenerife, such as Mount Teide, where all access roads had to be closed off due to dangerous conditions. Furthermore, La Palma was struck by a power failure that lasted a total of two hours at the height of the stormy conditions. This also resulted in the cancellation of ferry crossings and some flights to and from the Canary Islands.
In December 2013, Tenerife, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro experienced an intense storm, which caused flash floods across the archipelago islands. Hundreds of people were forced to evacuate their homes, due to the sudden downpour of rain, which also managed to cut off power and dozens of roads. It was estimated that wind speeds reached up to 180km/h and over 3000 lightning bolts struck the Canary Islands in a single morning.
The Canary Islands are prone to dust storms, due to their close proximity to the west coast of Africa and the Western Sahara. This type of phenomenon can happen almost at any time of the year, but is usually most likely to occur during February and March. The fine sand particles in the wind cause the air to become thick and visibility can be severely reduced to 200 metres or less, and is often compared to thick fog, depending on the severity. Dust storms can also bring along heavy rainfall, immediately afterwards. Furthermore, it is very uncommon for the Canary Islands to be hit by a hurricane, but on November 23rd 2005, the north of the Canaries were hit by Tropical Storm Delta, where it is estimated that wind speeds reached 124mph in some parts of Tenerife. It is believed that more than 200,000 people were affected by the storm, as the intense winds cut out electricity in parts of the Canary Islands. The stormed later moved on to Morocco, losing intensity.
Arrecife Lanzarote Playa Reducto beach, Canary Islands