An Island Girl’s Guide to Weather Forecasting

Written by: DANIELLE COLLINS

 

Like many Americans, when I lived in the States, I checked the weather forecast obsessively. Between local TV and radio updates every 15 minutes, three different weather apps on my phone, and of course, The Weather Channel, it was easy to fulfill my “What’s-the-weather-going-to-be-like-two-hours-from-now?” addiction. But a strange thing happened when I moved to the Caribbean. The habit that was such a foundational part of my daily routine suddenly ceased. I stopped checking the weather, cold turkey.

There are several possible explanations for this about-face in my concern for the elements. The most obvious one being that the weather here is relatively stable and predictable, depending on which of the two Caribbean seasons we’re in.

During tourist season, temperatures are hot but pleasant, thanks to prolific breezes across the island. And it’s pretty typical to have an overnight shower, with skies clearing in the early morning. No big deal. Wash, rinse, repeat – December thru May.

As hurricane season builds, the temperature becomes increasingly hotter, the breezes get progressively lighter, and the humidity rises to sauna levels. The height of this weather-induced misery begins in earnest around late August and culminates in late October, with November providing the kickoff to a much-needed break from the heat and humidity.

*click for image credit

It was in the middle of my second Caribbean hurricane season that I came to the realization that I no longer needed to check external sources for a weather forecast. I was forecasting the weather with decent accuracy myself. How did I develop the ability to predict nearly random meteorological conditions, which are, according to an old saying, influenced by events as minute as a butterfly flapping its wings? Let me explain…

 

The first item in my meteorological toolbox is my hair. It’s very fine and has some natural curl to it, which I usually attempt to counteract with a hair dryer and a brush. (A brutal form of self-torture in September and October on my rock.) But no matter what products I apply and how carefully I blow-dry it, as the day goes on, the natural curl wins out over my labor-intensive straight hairstyle. Depending on the humidity, this can happen anywhere from eight seconds to eight hours after my torture-by-hairdryer session. When my hair begins to curl within minutes of blow-drying it, that’s an indicator of humidity in the 70 to 80 percent range, with rain being imminent. If, however, it’s still mostly straight by mid-afternoon, the humidity is at a more manageable 50 to 60 percent, and clear skies are virtually guaranteed for the next 12 to 24 hours.

The condition of my skin is another barometer for the current and future state of the weather here. I’m fortunate to have air conditioning in the bedroom, but as soon as I step out in the morning, I can tell what type of day it will be, meteorologically speaking. As the old adage goes, It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. If the difference in humidity between my cool, air-conditioned sanctuary and the open-to-the-elements kitchen is such that I break into a sweat instantly upon opening the bedroom door, it’s almost assured that we’ll have rain by evening. But if I’m able to (for the most part) transition between these rooms without massive perspiration, we’re in for clear skies for the day. And although it rarely happens, if my skin feels dry, you can count on a scorching hot day—the type where it’s too hot to even go to the beach.

I knew from the outset that island life would force me to adapt in ways I never expected, but I would not have guessed that it would turn me into a better-than-average meteorologist!

Do you have any island-style tips for us budding weather forecasters?

*click for image credit

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Danielle Collins

About Danielle Collins

When Danielle and her husband first visited the Virgin Islands in 2007, if someone had told her that they would eventually live here, she would have given them a list of reasons a football field long, complete with graphs and charts, as to why that was ridiculous: it’s too expensive; their families would freak; they have big, important careers; and on and on… But seven years later, here they are – residents of Tortola, BVI. And their move happened in the most unusual way – they actually planned it! From traveling around the world for her job to traveling across the 13-mile island in search of decent toothpaste; from fancy suits and high heels to bathing suits and flip flops; from fast cars to a (soon to be very beat-up) Jeep – she’s loving her island girl transformation. Except for the mosquitoes. And the unwanted roommates. And the heat. To read more about Danielle’s realities of moving to a rock, check out her personal blog, www.keysintheconchshell.com.

CURRENT ROCK OF RESIDENCE: Tortola, BVI

ISLAND GIRL SINCE: 2014

ORIGINALLY HAILS FROM: North Carolina (Hey y’all!!)

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10 thoughts on “An Island Girl’s Guide to Weather Forecasting

  1. Eleven years on my rock and counting, I actually do check five websites each morning. My practical neighbor tells me, “Sometimes it’s just better to look out the window.” 🙂

  2. Such a lot of work to straighten your hair, when all those people with straight hair wish they had curly hair! Personally, I go to the barber, who cuts my hair really short, and then I just let it do its thing until it gets too long. So simple.
    .
    We found that it is easier to begin a meaningful conversation now. At home – the weather was the first topic – and really, you can’t do anything about it anyway. Sometimes the whole conversation was taken up with the weather. Here, those few minutes are often much more interesting. I like it.

    • Yes. Nice for weather to be less of a go-to conversation topic. Although during periods of extreme heat / drought…it’s on everyone’s minds so you end up even talking about it to your good friends!

    • I agree Val! When I talk to my friends back in the States or in Europe, you know what their first question always is? “How’s the weather?” I don’t know how to answer that any more (unless there’s a storm approaching or just passed), so I just say, “Sunny and 85!” Which is true, most of the time.

  3. When visitors are planning to come to my rock they tend to check the weather forecast before they get here. They are always so worried that it’s going to rain their whole trip because the forecast always looks the same (unless a storm approaching). Sunny with a chance of rain. And the rain rarely stays for any length of time. The only time we talk about weather is if we’re going out on a boat, when it’s extremely hot and when it’s extremely cold (15C brrrr)

    On another note… I tend to call tourist season “hair dryer season” since it’s finally not a torture to stupidly blast hot air onto your head thereby making your head wetter with sweat than when you started.

  4. I have found that I, too, have become a human weather vane. I have developed some secret ( to me ) weather prediction accuracy.However, my sense of what is cold and what is hot have really changed. We just had American friends visiting. They would be turning on fans; I would be turning them off. i would say it is too cold;they would say ,it feels hot to us.Last Decemeber one night when it was 74 F, I wore socks to bed!If I were in the States and it was 74 I would love the warm weather and sleep naked.
    Does this happen to anyone else:weather relativity?

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