Life from an outsider's perspective…

Predicting the weather, Canarian style.

Weather Prediction in Tenerife. Telltale signs.

As cyclists are exposed to the elements whenever we go for a ride, it’s vital that we possess some sort of weather prediction strategy. It is no fun being dressed inapprpriately and then freezing later on through inadequate knowledge & planning.

Here I’m going to attempt to demonstrate the ways in which local Canarian people are able to predict the local weather patterns reasonably well. Note that these observations are based from La Orotava, in the North of Tenerife:

  • General overcast conditions (stratus cloud cover) almost never produces rain, especially if you can see patches of blue sky directly above.
  • Clouds creeping over Mt Teide & Las Canadas from a Southerly direction (the mountain range behind Puerto de la Cruz) is not a good sign. When it is accompanied by heavy wind, together these are the attributes of a big storm – especially if the clouds are dark. Expect rain, lightning & snow above 2000m, and even heavier winds to come! Everyone is advised to stay out of Las Cañadas during a storm; the winds make it very dangerous. Don’t even think about cycling up there during a storm! Better to stay indoors – the conditions will usually improve within 24 hours. There are usually only a handful of heavy storms per year, most often occurring in the Winter season.
  • If you can see reflections of the clouds in the sea towards the North, and consistent/continous cumulus clouds rising above the ocean, then it is probably going to rain within a few hours.
  • If you can clearly see the island of La Palma from Tenerife, some say that rain is assured. (I’m yet to be convinced of this)
  • If there is dust in the air, a calima is present. Expect elevated temperatures during day and reduced temperatures at night. This phenomonen usually lasts 2-3 days but sometimes as long as one week. There will normally be a temperature inversion, meaning that the higher you go up the slopes of Mt Teide, the hotter it gets. Las Cañadas is particularly hot during a calima.
  • ‘White horses’ on the ocean and large waves breaking on the shore obviously means that it is (or will soon be) windy; this is often visible from 5 or more kilometres away!
  • Puerto de la Cruz is always sunnier than the rest of the La Orotava valley as the coastline juts out beyond the reach of the “sea of clouds”.

From personal observation, it seems that the weather slips into one of three weather patterns:

  1. Normal – overcast, but no rain. (telltale sign = stratus clouds between 1000-1500m)
  2. Calima – unusually hot and dry with no clouds present. (telltale sign = presence of dust suspension in the atmosphere, no clouds)
  3. Stormy – wind, rain, fog, snow, lightning. (telltale sign = heavy wind + cumulus clouds above 2000m)

I guess you could say that the periodic alternation between these three states is a normal chaotic weather pattern. Whenever there are 2 or more of these weather states present at the same time, that’s when the weather appears to be acting strangely. I could be wrong but the calima & storm weather patterns appear to be mutually exclusive.

One Response to “Predicting the weather, Canarian style.”

  1. I’ve got another couple of sure0fire ways of predicting whether it’s going to rain in the north of Tenerife:

    A) If my neighbour starts hosing down her garden (that one usually means a storm’s coming).

    B) When the frogs in the garden strike up an excited chorus during the day, you can bet the heavens will open within a couple of hours.

    Well, they’re as accurate as any weather forecasting website I’ve come across!!

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