Falkland Islands: Weather Overview
About Falkland Islands
The Falkland Islands are a British Antarctic Territory, sitting off the east coast of Argentina in the South Atlantic Ocean. They receive a cold, maritime climate with cool temperatures, low but frequent rainfall and lots of wind. Conditions are very indecisive, changing suddenly and unpredictably. Surrounded by water, the dominant element in the Falkland Islandsâ climate is a cold Antarctic Current in the South Atlantic. While there is only a small amount of seasonal variation in temperature, summers are warmer than winters. As they sit in the southern hemisphere, the islandsâ seasons are the reverse of those in the northern hemisphere; January and February are the peak summer months while July and August are the cold heart of winter.
The islands are mostly low-lying with a craggy shoreline, but some mountains do stretch along the east and north coasts of northern West Falkland and from east to west in the middle of East Falkland. As such, there is some regional difference in weather. Cooler temperatures are to be expected at higher altitudes; temperatures quoted below relate to areas around sea level. Contrary to the westerly direction of the prevailing winds, the eastern island is slightly wetter than the western island. Conditions are similar to those found in the Shetland Islands and the Hebrides. Many cite the Falkland Islandsâ climate as close to that of the UK. Similarities between the two regionsâ climates are drawn because the UK sits at 52° north, while the Falkland Islands sit 52° south. However, while the UK is treated to the warm Gulf Stream, the Falkland Islands are at the mercy of the cold Antarctic Current.
Precipitation is actually quite low, falling evenly throughout the year, though it falls frequently in prolonged, light showers. It rains on around 250 days per year. Snow is actually possible at any time of year, though even in winter it rarely settles for long. Constant precipitation has to lead to many boggy areas and small lakes.
Summer, from December till March, is cool, similar to a cold Mediterranean winter, though with less rain. The average high temperature in Stanley is 12°C in December and March, rising to a pathetic peak of 13°C in January and February. Night times remain cold, at an average low of 6°C in the warmest months. There is always the possibility that an Antarctic wind will gust up from the south and force temperatures down. If the wind comes down from the continent, temperatures can creep up as high as 19°C. Even southern regions of Argentina are warm at this time of year; El Calafate is adjacent to the islands and sees an average high of 16°C and to the north, Comodoro Rivadavia is hot at 26°C. However, the prevailing winds are usually from the west. These are cool, strong and humid year round, but strongest in the summer, making it the most changeable season. Gale force winds are common. Rainfall is highest at this time of year, peaking in January, but the increase is very small. Summer is less overcast than the rest of the year, coming out for around six hours each day. While this is not a staggering amount of sunshine, the clean, thin air means the UV index is very high and strong sunblock should be worn outside. The sea is at its warmest around 9°C: not very tempting.
Autumn, in April, is quite cold with lessening sunshine. The average high-temperature drops to 9°C and the average low 3°C. It can get below freezing and frosts can occur from the beginning of the month. The sun stays out for around four hours per day as clouds become more persistent. Rainfall remains low but frequent and the wind is still quite strong.
Winter, from May till September, is cold and dismal. Rainfall levels drop slightly lower but rain falls in shorter, heavier storms. The average high temperature drops to 7°C in May then to 5°C from June till August, before getting back up to 7°C in September. The average low of 1°C drops to 0°C in July and August. It regularly falls below freezing, even in the day time. Sunshine reduces at the beginning of the season, getting down to a miserly two hours per day in June, but creeps back up again; September receives around five hours per day. Early winter is pretty gloomy; clouds are a regular fixture. The wind is slightly weaker which might be why it is so grey. The sea gets down to 5°C.
Spring, in October and November, is warmer but still decidedly cool. The average high temperature creeps up to 9°C in October and 11°C in November. Night times remain very cold and regularly get down to freezing. However, the sun comes out for six hours per day which is as good as the Falkland Islandsâ summer. Rainfall increases very slightly and the winds start to get a bit stronger.
The Falkland Islands are not the most popular holiday destination. This is not due to the abysmal weather but to their inaccessibility. In fact, there is a great deal to see on the islands, the enjoyment of which is not reliant on warmth and sun, but is in fact reliant on it being so constantly cool. The islands are a pristine environment with unspoilt white beaches lapped by crystal-clear waters. The absence of the levels of pollution seen in more heavily developed areas, and the islandsâ stable climate, means they are a haven for delicate ecosystems and animal life. A walk along the beach will bring you into close proximity with all manner of penguins, colonies of elephant seals, the odd albatross and even the tail of a breaching whale just out to sea. The Falkland Islands are often seen as the gateway to the Antarctic, and Antarctic cruises often stop there first to demonstrate a medium between mainland and Antarctica.