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British Virgin Islands - Climate

The hurricane season in the Caribbean normally runs from June to November. The location of The Virgin Islands at the northeastern tip of the Caribbean places it directly in the hurricane belt. Traditionally, there is a 25 to 30 year intensity cycle of tropical cyclone activity and during that period The Virgin Islands may expect a category 4 storm and several categories 2 or 3 storms.

The British Virgin Islands enjoy a tropical climate, moderated by trade winds. The islands are constantly swept by Northeast Trade Winds that have a drying effect at low elevations and produce rainfall when they intersect with land at high elevations. Temperatures vary little throughout the year. In the capital, Road Town, typical daily maxima are around 32 C (89.6 F) in the summer and 29 C (84.2 F) in the winter.

Typical daily minima are around 24 C (75.2 F) in the summer and 21 C (69.8 F) in the winter. Rainfall averages about 1,150 mm (45.3 in) per year, higher in the hills and lower on the coast. Rainfall can be quite variable, but the wettest months on average are September to November and the driest months on average are February and March. Hurricanes occasionally hit the islands, with the hurricane season running from June to November.

Data collected at Paraquita Bay, Tortola from 1901 to 1994 shows that The Virgin Islands receive a total annual rainfall that ranges from 24.1 inches to 94.3 inches, with an average total of 50.3 inches. The dry season dominates the year and extends from January to August. During the dry season January to March and June to July are the driest months, with May showing an isolated rainier peak as a result of sporadic showers. The wet season extends from September to December, with November being the wettest month.

The Virgin Islands, like all of the Caribbean, is climate sensitive. BVI lives and livelihoods revolve around or are closely linked to climate temperature, rainfall patterns, humidity, the trade winds, and severe events including drought, floods and hurricanes.

Nearly all main economic activities (tourism, fisheries, and agriculture) have been developed around traditionally dependable patterns in these key elements of climate or are impacted by climatic events droughts, floods and hurricanes. Climate has strongly influenced infrastructure and construction style, choice of recreation as well as health and well-being.

Tourism is a fundamental element of the product is BVI's relatively stable tropical climate, constantly moderated by the Northeast Trade Winds. BVI tourism attractions, primarily nature-based, are directly impacted by even slight changes in weather and cycles of extreme events coral reefs can bleach with just a 1-2 C (1.8-3.6 F) rise in ocean temperature above the normal maximum and beaches are highly prone to erosion due to hurricane events and long-term sea level rise.

In terms of infrastructure and construction style, developments have traditionally not taken into account appropriate building standards, drainage, elevation, and set-back considerations to deal with regular floods, strong hurricanes and storm surges and sea level rise. Tourism infrastructure and properties, in particular, are concentrated in the low-lying coastal zone where they are very vulnerable to these climate change impacts.

Because the Virgin Islands economy and society are so dependent on a relatively stable climate it is highly vulnerable to changes in climate that is, the present phenomenon known as global climate change. BVI is vulnerable to long-term changes in climate such as decreased total rainfall by up to 25% by the 2080s and sea level rise possibly up to 1.9 feet by the end of the 21st Century. Importantly, predictions about long-term changes in climate include a tendency towards more frequent and or higher impact extreme climatic events, particularly floods and hurricanes.

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