Canary weather features

The Canary Islands lies in the transition zone between the temperate and tropical world. Because of its location, and because of the range of factors characterized in the previous section, it is very difficult to define a specific climate, since depending on the island where we are, and the sector of this, it will be possible to establish different climatic characteristics. That is why, the most named word when talking about the Canary climate is that of microclimates .

The Archipelago, due to its location, should have a warm and dry climate, but however factors such as insularity and relief give rise to considerable contrasts of precipitation and the existence of very low temperatures.

Broadly speaking, it can be said that the climate of the Islands is characterized by very low and irregular precipitations , especially in the low zones (less than 300 mm), due to the predominance of the Azores anticyclone . In the areas medianías precipitation can reach 800-1000 mm in the windward slopes exposed to trade winds moist and constant. It is in this sector that there is the stagnation of the sea ​​of ​​clouds , which contributes a great environmental humidity and a considerable volume of water, which favors that the zone is optimal for the development of the agriculture. Whereas in the slopes of leeward this quantity pluviométrica is reduced quite as a result of the disappearance of the sea of ​​clouds. In the zone of summits , mainly in the islands of greater altitude, the trade winds cease to have effect, descending the precipitations in comparison with the mediates, around 400 mm, which in some cases can appear in form of snow.

The rains in the Canaries are more intense at the end of autumn, and mainly in winter, being the driest season of the year. Rainfall is characterized by an interannual irregularity, that is, there is a succession of rainy or very rainy years, with dry or very dry years. They are often very localized, and in some cases they become a very important climatic risk . When there is an accentuated decrease in air masses in the temperate world and are combined with tropical factors, precipitation can occur with a high hourly intensity, being classified in some cases as torrential rains , with values ​​comparable only to those of the cold drop Produces late summer in the Mediterranean basin.

As for temperatures, the Archipelago is characterized by mild thermal conditions . In general, the warmer temperatures are recorded on the southern coasts of all the islands, where the annual average exceeds 20 ° C. In the islands of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, whose altitudes do not reach 1,000 meters, therefore they are below the level of formation of the sea of ​​clouds, this average temperature generalizes in almost all its surface, reason why they are the More arid islands. In the remaining islands, and as we rise in altitude, the average annual temperature drops, up to 14ºC for example in the summits of Gran Canaria, 13ºC in those of the islands of El Hierro and La Gomera, in the highlands of La Palma They reach 9ºC or in the Cañadas del Teide in Tenerife up to 5ºC.

North slope of the Islands

We refer next to windward , who is exposed to the action of the trade winds, and where we can differentiate three zones, as we climbed in altitude, with different climatic characteristics.

  • Low area . Within it we can differentiate between two areas. The first corresponds to the altitude that reaches 200 meters in altitude . It is characterized by the influence of sea breezes. There are very few thermal oscillations . The average temperature ranges from 19ºC to 23ºC. The annual average precipitation is 200 mm. However, it is the zone of greater agricultural prosperity due to the cultivation of banana and other tropical products. A second cota is between 200 and 600 meters in altitude. In it the influence of the sea is reduced and there is a greater oscillation of the temperatures that goes from 16ºC to 21ºC. The atmosphere is cool and pleasant, where there is the cultivation of the vineyard and other Mediterranean fruits.
  • Middle zone . It comprises from 600 meters to 1,500 meters of altitude. Here the climate is cold and humid, giving rise to cloud formation that benefits the soil with dew and fog. The average temperature is between 12ºC and 16ºC. Rainfall reaches 500 to 1,000 mm per year. It is suitable land for cereals, potatoes and chestnuts.
  • High zone . In this zone we can differentiate two levels. On the one hand the one that comprises of the 1,500 to the 2,700 meters of altitude. It only exists in the islands with the highest elevation: Tenerife, La Palma and Gran Canaria. It is usually characterized by a dry air, constituted by the upper part of the trade winds, except when there are invasions of maritime polar air. Snow falls almost every year. Rainfall usually does not exceed 400 mm. There is a great thermal oscillation between day and night. Often temperatures below 0 ° C are produced. Its annual average is 9ºC. It is a zone of pines in its inferior part, and when these disappear develop scrubs or brooms. A second level in the high zone, is the one that includes between the 2,700 and 3,700 meters of altitude . This level only exists in the island of Tenerife, in Pico Viejo and El Teide, reaching temperatures of 15ºC below zero, with significant snowfall, mainly in winter. Here appears the famous ‘Violet of Teide’ which may appear buried several months under the snow.

Southern slope of the Islands.

On the leeward side , that is, where the trade winds do not affect, three climatic zones differ.

  • Low area . It is the coastal strip and dry. Of greater aridity than the one of the north zone and greater variation of temperature. It dominates the cultivation of tomatoes and large plantations of banana plantations, although in areas of La Palma it is also vineyard land.
  • Middle zone. It usually receives local and intense precipitations of the storms of the South. The climate of this area is similar in some respects to the Mediterranean climate that occurs in the Peninsula. In Gran Canaria, and especially in Tenerife, it is a land of potato cultivation. In this area there is no middle zone as in the north, because it does not directly receive the beneficial influence of the trade winds.
  • High side. With characteristics similar to those of the north slope, that is to say, great thermal oscillation and annual precipitations around 400 mm.

In short, the canary climate is mild and hardly presents seasonal contrasts in the year. However, climatic contrasts are surprising at such short distances. It is what is known as microclimate. This climatic variety in so little extension is what has made that the greater islands are considered like microcontinents . The climatic differences, lead to marked differences in vegetation and, consequently, the most varied landscapes.

Translated from original. 


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