Weatherwatch: the climate of the Windward Islands

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Photograph: Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images

The Windward Islands are the colloquial name for the southernmost, larger islands of the Lesser Antilles in the West Indies, comprising St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Dominica, Martinique and, by some definitions, Barbados.

They acquired their name during the age of exploration of the 17th and 18th centuries, when sailors crossing the Atlantic Ocean would try to choose the fastest route, taking advantage of the prevailing easterly trade winds. In doing so, they would usually pass between two groups of islands, which they named the Windward Islands on their right and the Leeward Islands on their left – names still used today.

Like other Caribbean islands, they enjoy an equable climate for much of the year, with dry and sunny weather prevailing from December through to June, punctuated by occasional falls of rain, and average daily maxima in the high 20s and early 30s celsius. Rainfall is generally low during these months, though it is higher in the hillier areas. The western sides of the islands are generally best for tourism, as they are sheltered from the prevailing winds.

However, from June to November the weather may be far less predictable, with regular heavy downpours, and more extensive cloud cover. This is also the hurricane season. Although these deadly weather systems often pass by farther north, they can hit the Windward Islands, as did Hurricane Tomas in October 2010.

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