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Jamaica - Climate and Weather

The weather and climate in Jamaica are more varied than you might expect. This is due to the three distinct geographical areas within the 10,911 km2 (4,213 square mile) land mass of the Commonwealth Caribbean’s largest island.

The central mountain chain, the Karst limestone hills to the west and the low-lying coastal plains and valleys all have a significant impact on the daily weather in Jamaica.

The hills to the north and east attract more rain from May to October, especially around Port Antonio. Inland temperatures are lower than those in the coast, thanks to the higher altitude. Additionally, hurricane season, which is between June and November, can bring ferocious storms.

However, coastal areas enjoy a fairly consistent, balmy climate for most of the year. Temperatures between 22°C (71°F) and 31°C (88°F) are the norm, with July being the warmest month of the year. Even in winter, you can typically enjoy a pleasant day wearing a T-shirt or sundress.

Be Sun Smart In Jamaica

In July, roughly 11 hours of sunshine beat down every day. Even at July average temperatures of 29°C (83°F), great damage can be done to your body; and some days will be much hotter than this.

It’s easy to head to the beach with a thin layer of low factor sunscreen and prepare for a tan. However, in 2015, more than 800 people died in Jamaica alone as the direct result of a major heatwave. Furthermore, around one in three cancer diagnoses across the world are for skin cancer, which can be caused by exposure to the sun.

To protect your health, start by wearing a hat with a large brim, and cover your skin in high factor sunscreen. Remember to reapply it after you have been swimming in the pool or sea. Make sure you also buy some good quality sunglasses to block out harmful rays.

If you are on the beach, hire a comfortable lounger under shade. Those who have fair skin should add further protection by wearing lightweight cotton tops and a sarong.

Don’t forget to carry a bottle of water with you everywhere. It quickly becomes unpleasant to drink in the heat, but if you get dehydrated and start to suffer from sunstroke, it might save your life.

The Hurricane Season

Jamaica is an island located in the warm Caribbean Sea. The conditions for a cyclone or hurricane arise every year and residents have to keep one ear on the radio to check how storms are developing. The risk is so high that the period between June 1st and November 30th is known as Hurricane season.

In 1988, the category five strength Hurricane Gilbert struck Jamaica. It caused flash flooding that killed 49 people and a landslide which almost claimed the lives of two more. The island suffered hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of damage.

Thankfully, that was the worst hurricane in Jamaica since 1951, and subsequent storms have had a less severe impact. However, it’s worth bearing this history in mind and making preparations in case something similar happens again, especially as storms, tropical cyclones and hurricanes are so frequent.

Keep an emergency supply of food and clean water available throughout hurricane season. A first aid kit, torch and spare batteries should be added, along with emergency supplies of any medicine you take. If you have prepared for the water and electricity supplies to be out of action for a couple of days, that should see you through.

Of course, your home could be severely damaged or even destroyed by the storms. If you live in Jamaica, it is important to have a good insurance policy which fully covers your home for these weather-related events. Keep a copy of it online in case your filing cabinet gets buried under a fallen roof!

Are There Earthquakes In Jamaica?

Jamaica frequently suffers from earthquakes. The northern edge of the Caribbean plate, which pushes and jostles against the North American plate deep underwater, is close to where Jamaica sits. In addition, the island itself is home to a number of active faults in the crust. Thanks to this, earthquakes can happen once a week or more.

When Was The Last Major Earthquake In Jamaica?

On 14th January 1907, the Jamaican capital city of Kingston was destroyed by an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.5, and by the fires that the event caused. Roughly a thousand people lost their lives that day.

Some hours later, the north coast of Jamaica was hit by a tsunami, which was caused by the underwater movement of the earthquake. The waves reached approximately eight feet in height and caused flooding.

There have been many Jamaican buildings damaged in later earthquakes but luckily none of the later earthquake events were as bad as the one in 1907.

Did An Earthquake Destroy Port Royal Jamaica In 1692?

Port Royal was once the largest city in the Caribbean. On June 7th, 1692, an earthquake caused many of the buildings to collapse. A few hours later, a tsunami hit the city and made the sand foundations too unstable for the buildings to stand.

Between the earthquake, tsunami and the terrible spread of disease amongst the large crowds of homeless people, more than half the small city’s population perished. It is because of this event that Kingston rose to become the Jamaican capital city.

Earthquakes In Jamaica Today

Although the disasters of 1697 and 1907 happened long ago, the lessons remain for Jamaica. The government runs an emergency planning agency called the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) to plan an emergency response, but as a resident, you will need to make your own family preparations too.

Make sure your family is ready by working through the following points together:

1. Keeping large, heavy or breakable objects on lower shelves

2. Making sure that high or heavy furniture is secured to the wall

3. Keeping insurance policies up to date and copies emailed to relatives

4. Finding safe hiding places to use in an earthquake

5. Knowing how turn off the water, gas and electricity

6. Learning basic first aid skills to treat urgent casualties

7. Knowing where the nearest public shelter is

8. Planning how to reunite with family members if all phones stop working]

9. Identifying which areas in the locality pose a tsunami risk

Flooding In Jamaica

The island of Jamaica has a lot of low lying, flood prone areas. As a result, the heavy rains which form part of its tropical climate often bring flooding or flash floods.

Most of the time, the sun clears the flooding in no time. A street which had suddenly become a fast-flowing stream splashing over your ankles can return to normal dry conditions within a couple of hours.

However, serious floods – including those caused by tsunamis – can threaten buildings, the urban infrastructure and human health. If your home is flooded, you may lose sentimental items and have to move out for several months. If roads, telephone systems and electricity supplies are seriously damaged, this can cause a number of difficulties.

Landslides are another danger brought about by heavy rains and flooding. As the soil turns to mud and moves, items such as vehicles, homes and even roads can be dragged down hillsides.

However, the biggest risk to human health is contaminated water. When sewerage systems are overwhelmed and absorbed into the flood waters, all manner of uncomfortable stomach upset bacteria and deadly communicable diseases are released into the general environment. Even if you are careful to avoid contact with flood waters, you will be surrounded by other people who may have touched contaminated items. Make sure you have access to clean, bottled water and carefully wash your hands and cutlery before eating.

The ODPEM has set out a number of ways you can future-proof your home. You will find the advice on the ODPEM website.

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