Lowenthal, David Department of Geography, University College, London, United Kingdom.
Last reviewed:June 2020
- Bahama Islands
- Greater Antilles
- Lesser Antilles
- Offshore islands
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
An archipelago, including the Bahamas, the Greater Antilles, the Lesser Antilles, and other islands, curving 2500 mi (4000 km) from Yucatan Peninsula and southeastern Florida to northern Venezuela and enclosing the Caribbean Sea (see illustration). Situated between latitude 10° and 27°N and longitude 59° and 85°W, in the zone of the northeast trade winds, the West Indies have a subtropical and predominantly oceanic climate, with even warmth and steady breezes. Temperatures vary little from season to season, ranging from means of 80–85°F (27–29°C) in July to 70–78°F (21–26°C) in January at sea level. Freezing is unknown, and the hottest temperatures rarely exceed 90°F (32°C). Precipitation ranges from a low of 25–50 in. (64–127 cm) a year on low-lying islands and drier coasts up to 300 in. (7.6 m) on the highest peaks, which are almost perpetually cloud-capped. At lower elevations, rainfall is erratic from year to year and from season to season, but reaches a maximum in the summer and fall, when the northeast trades are replaced by light, variable winds. This is also the season of hurricanes, destructive tropical cyclones which sweep west and northwest across the Caribbean, sparing only the southernmost islands. The winter months are generally dry, and there is frequently a shorter dry season in July or August. See also: Tropical meteorology
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