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CLIMATE OF GALAPAGOS ISLANDS, FACTS [10 YEAR CLIMATE GRAPHS]

What is the best time to visit the Galapagos Islands?

  1. December - May, the "wet season", is the warmest and sunniest with short drizzle showers;

  2. June - November, the dry season is best for scuba diving and watching marine birds;

  3. March - April highlight flowers blooming and young for turtles and Sea Lions;

  4. July - August is breeding season for Boobies and other marine birds.

 

Climate of the Galapagos Islands, Facts

The climate of the Galapagos Islands favors visiting throughout the year. While the Equator runs through the archipelago, the weather is relatively mild. This is due to the Humboldt current, that bends eastward from Guayaquil.

 

The Wet Season

From December To May, the water and air temperatures are higher, which results in a somewhat higher humidity of the air and brief daily drizzling rains and fog at the higher elevations. Nevertheless, the rain showers are followed by periods of sunshine, making this season the sunniest of the year.

 

The moist conditions cause the flowers to peak blooming from March - April. This is also the the breeding season for sea Turtles, land Tortoises and Sea Lions.

 

The Dry Season

As the Humboldt Current runs through the archipelago during the dry season, it brings much colder water which also cools the air temperatures on the Islands. While this Antarctic current is cold it also results in the air above to  contain a low relative humidity, which translates in low annual rainfall. In fact the climate of the Galapagos Islands is arid to semi arid, but it varies with the elevations. As winds are forced up against the slopes of the higher mountains, the air cools off, forcing fog around the mountain tops, which still keeps the forests relatively moist during the dry season.

 

A third current influences the ocean waters, the Cromwell current, which wells up form deeper oceanic strata bringing nutrients to the surface. This causes plankton to florish, thus feeding the fish, which in turn attract oceanic birds, Blue and Pilot Whales, etc. to the islands. This is the best season to see Penguins and Albatrosses that are attracted to the schools of fish.  Blue-footed boobies and other marine birds have their breeding season, as do the Genovesa owls.

 

From June to November, the dry season is characterized by permanently overcast skies  without rain (similar to the "Garua" climate in Lima). The winds increase and make the seas get choppy, causing many visitors get seasick.

 

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Temperatures range from 21 -30 C, while the annual precipitation is around 400 mm in the lowlands of Galapagos National Park, but higher on the mountain tops of the larger islands. As a result, the lowlands have arid - semi-desert - vegetation with lots of Opuntia cactuses and the islands while lava formations are lacking almost any vegetation.

 

The Trade winds

The Archipelago is located in the  southeastern trade wind region of the Pacific Ocean, which impact the currents that dominate the surrounding seas.  From January - April the trade winds decrease in strength, causing the Humboldt Current to shift South. As the warm tropical Panama current from the North warms up the water, thus initiating the warmer rainy season.

 

El Niño Season

Every 5-6 years, the El Niño current totally changes the weather patterns, with the archipelago right in the middle of the event.

Warm tropical water surrounds the waters, causing the temperatures to rise and rainfall to increase dramatically.  During the 1982-83 El Niño, the sea level rose 40 cm and the average temperature of the surface water 4oC; the average max. air temperature 3oC, which climatically are very dramatic increases, while the rainfall rose to 8 - 10 times the normal precipitation Also the average monthly precipitation and the annual precipitation increased 10-fold and eightfold, respectively.

 

Telescope Effect

An interesting effect is the so-called "telescope effect". In the mountains, the air temperature drops as an average 6 degrees C per 1000 m. But on isolated mountains like the volcanoes on the Galapagos Islands, the decrease is more and therefore the cooling is faster at Galapagos than on the mainland. Moreover, dry air cools off quicker than humid air, thus further strengthening the cooling effect. As a result, the high mountain tops of Galapagos are forested and often are cloud covered, while the sun shines in lowlands. As you can see, Galapagos has many climate zones, depending on the elevations.

 

Southern Santa Cruz is about in the center of the archipelago. Its annual rainfall is 512 mm; the average air temperature is 29.1 4oC in March, the hottest period, and 23.1 4oC in September, the coldest period, while the average air temperature for the year is is 25.4 4oC.The graphs below give an overview of the overall Galapagos climate.

Temperatures and Climate of the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.Rainfall graph of Climate of the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.

Water temperature and Climate of the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.

Lowlands desert Climate of the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.Desert vegetation caused by the Climate of the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.

Many islands in the Archipelago are mere desserts, with only some coastal vegetation along the sandy beaches with shrubs that benefit from deep groundwater.

Extremely draught resistant Opuntia cactuses form arid shrub forests in the lowlands, particularly on the larger islands, like Santa Cruz.

 

Montane Climate of the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, at higher elevations

At higher elevations, the climate of the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, is cooler and with more rainfall. As a result there is true forest on the higher mountains thanks to the cooling of the air as it is forced up. When the air cools off, the humidity in the air condenses, thus forming clouds. These conditions are strengthened by  the telescope effect.

 

Blue-footed Booby colony at Galapagos National ParkBue-footed Boobies, Sula nebouxii, at Galapagos National Park

Marine birds like Blue Footed Boobies breed when the Humboldt current brings more fish to the Islands.

 

Beware of Extreme Sunburn Risk

WARNING: You will be on the Equator UV radiation is extremely high everywhere you go and you need to protect yourself adequately, even if you are dark-skinned. Always where a head, not just a baseball cap, and please, don't wear sandals or bear feet when  the first days you come from abroad. I have seen such horribly painful feet on people who covered everything but their feet. Your feet get the most direct sunlight as they are exposed horizontally to the sun!

 

Always put on high grade sun block (don't forget the edges of your ears).  Accustom your skin to the sunlight by exposing it for no more than an hour the first day and add an hour everyday afterwards. Don't be fooled by an overcast sky, you can still get sun burn when the weather is cloudy. Be particularly aware on the water, as on the water, the UV effect is greater. Also beware of wind, as it also tends to increase the sun burning of your skin. Not only be careful on Galapagos, but be mindful of the climate of Ecuador anywhere you travel, and particularly if you are on an Ecuador Andes Trek, as at high elevations, the UV radiation is even stronger.

 

For detailed information on climate and weather conditions read: climate of Cuenca, Ecuador; climate in the Amazon of Ecuador and climate of Ecuador. If you want to learn more about the country, read Ecuador Facts.

 

 

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