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Bermuda's Climate and Weather

Year-round temperatures and hurricanes, cooler in winter than Caribbean 1,000 miles south

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By Keith Archibald Forbes (see About Us) at e-mail exclusively for Bermuda Online

To refer to this webfile, please use "bermuda-online.org/climateweather.htm" as your Subject.

Bermuda weather The climate is sub-tropical, mild in the winter, spring and autumn (fall), but from late May to October, can be uncomfortably hot and with especially high humidity. The hottest part of the year is from May through mid-October, when temperatures hover between 75°F / 23°C and 85°F / 29°C. Humidity, often well over 85%, is at its highest from July through mid-October. 

Despite its latitude and longitude - and its location so far north of the Caribbean, nearly a thousand miles north of it in fact - Bermuda is entirely frost-free, snow-free and ice-free. Why? Because the warm waters of the Gulf Stream pass near Bermuda. 

However, it can be favorable to hay fever sufferers. Rag weed does not exist in Bermuda and pollens of other weeds are quickly blown out to sea. But note that for those with allergies., the always humid climate breeds mold, mildew and mites. Some pharmaceuticals available without prescription elsewhere require prescriptions in Bermuda from registered local medical doctors. Not all drugstores in Bermuda are licensed dispensing pharmacies. You will have to visit one of the latter in the City of Hamilton or the Town of St. George to obtain anything locally prescribed but perhaps not carried by a hotel drugstore.

Bermuda's ocean winds are tempered by the Gulf Stream, but when south winds prevail, the humidity rises and sometimes thunderstorms occur. The highest humidity months are July and August. Temperatures rarely drop below 55 degrees F or exceed 90 degrees F. The lowest air temperature ever recorded was 43.6F. The highest was 94F. Water temperatures during winter months are much the same as the air temperature, ranging from about 66F (in January) through 75F until the late spring.

Enough annual rainfall is one reason why Bermuda is usually lush in foliage and greenery despite its very shallow alkali soil. There is no monsoon or rainy season because Bermuda is not in the Caribbean, but some months tend to be wetter than others. But others can be devoid of much rain. Also, several - like late June, July and August in particular and early September - can be extremely (and unpleasantly) humid. If this affects you badly, and you don't mind cooler water for swimming, then try May or June or late September to October.

For weather forecasts, you have a choice of two services. If you are planning a wedding, special trip, barbecue or other outdoor function, try Bermuda Weather. Or e-mail info@bermudaweather.bm. Or phone (441) 295-9882 or fax (441) 295-6317. It has very good statistics on a day by day basis since 1988. For more general details, or for mariners, check the Bermuda Weather Service page. It is a Bermuda Government service, provided by the Ministry of Transport Department of Air Operations.

Bermuda average temperatures and rainfall by month

Showing mean (average of high and low for month) figures, much cooler in winter than the Caribbean or Florida.

Heading Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Air (F) 63 62.8 64.3 66.5 72.3 77.3 80.6 79.9 79 80.9 71.6 66.7
Sea (F), inshore 65.3 63.7 65.9 67.8 74.3 79.2 82.7 82.6 82.3 77.1 73.8 67.5
Rain (inches) 5.3 5.1 3.2 2.48 3.6 2.37 5.46 6.12 2.05 7.22 2.82 2.66
Number of rain days 16 16 13 9 6 8 14 19 9 13 14 13
Relative Humidity 73% 73% 71% 74% 79% 80% 81% 80% 72% 73% 72% 70%

Average daily figures. They  can vary substantially month-by-month. But on a year-by-year basis, the accumulated figures do not vary by much. Rain and rainstorms generate the island's only supply of fresh water. There is no central piped-in water supply except to a few few places. When there is insufficient rain, water is ordered and paid for from Government reservoirs or seawater distillation plants and delivered by water truckers. Outdoors in December-February can be chilly at times, especially in frequent winter gales. Indoors, most Bermudians don't have central heating in their homes as you do in USA, Canada, Europe and UK, but open fires in one room or electric heaters. Bring some some wool clothing in the winter months.

Bermuda Temperature Variations. The year-round mean relative humidity is 77%. But in the months of May through October, it is much higher. It is energy-sapping, debilitating, chronic, with a need to change clothes three times a day. Most northern USA, UK, European and Canadian nationals are not told about it and some can get a very severe heat and humidity rash from it. For those potentially affected badly by a combination of heat and high humidity, it is recommended that when you holiday in Bermuda, you come in other - winter - months when humidity is lower.

Hurricanes

Beware the Hurricane!  Book by the late Bermudian author Terry Tucker.

hurricane off Bermuda

Hurricane off Bermuda

In the event of hurricane forecasts, see special Hurricane links to the National Hurricane Center in the USA or The Weather Channel. Some Bermuda hotels and guest properties have a Hurricane Guarantee, which guarantees subject to certain conditions that if they cancel because of a hurricane that prevents them from arriving, no penalty is attached. 

Studies conducted by the Bermuda Weather Service found that from 1609 to the present day, devastating storms affect the Island every six to seven years. Our tropical cyclone, or hurricane, season is from May through November, with an average of one storm passing within 180 nautical miles of the Island every year.

Hurricanes are severe subtropical or tropical storm with heavy rains and intense winds which blow in a large circular motion around a center "eye." Hurricane season in the Atlantic officially runs for six months,  from June 1 to November 30. Most hurricanes occur in August, September and October. Bermuda is usually quite well protected by its reefs but high waves on top of a storm surge can cause problems in low lying areas close to the sea.

Hurricanes are not as prevalent here as in the Caribbean, but they do occasionally visit our island once every seven years or so.

When hurricanes strike, their damage to hotels and private dwelling houses is often superficial compared to other places. One major reason is because by law all buildings must be solidly built out of Bermuda limestone or concrete blocks.  Compare this to coastal areas of the USA where wood, not stone, predominates. While all of Bermuda is coastal - no part of Bermuda is more than 1.5 miles from the sea - Bermuda lacks a gradual undersea slope, which is a primary cause of severe storm surge. But Bermuda's flora - trees, flowers, vegetation and the like - and fauna are not protected from hurricanes in the way many buildings are.  Bermuda often gets electrical outages from gale force winds. This means no power for sometimes hours or days or weeks - and because of the electrical outages no water can be drawn, except manually in buckets if these are available, from underground tanks in local homes. Their only way to get water for basins, baths, sinks, showers and toilets is by electrical pumps from water tanks from each property.  There is no central underground water supply. Also, telephones can be out for weeks - and cable TV for well over a month, as in September 2003.

Hurricane Fabian killed four in Bermuda in 2003 and was the worst hurricane to hit the Island since 1926. Hurricanes Fabian, Isabel and Juan were so offensive in 2003 that they won't reappear on the rotating lists of 21 names chosen for severe Atlantic Ocean weather by the World Meteorological Organization. Ida, Fred and Joaquin take their place on the alphabetical roster for 2009. The list and five others for Atlantic storms are reused every six years. Seventy-three names have been retired from the lists of Atlantic storms, including Andrew, Florida's most expensive hurricane, which caused $15.5 billion in insured property losses in 1992. The most came off in 2005, when five names were stricken, including Katrina, which flooded New Orleans, killed more than 1,000 people and cost insurers $41 billion, the most of any natural disaster. Hurricane Isabel, which had maximum winds of 166 miles an hour, struck North Carolina in September 2003. It moved north through Virginia and Maryland before dissipating in Canada. Isabel was directly responsible for 16 deaths and caused $3.4 billion in damage, according to the hurricane centre's storm archives.

Hurricanes affecting Bermuda, the Caribbean islands, North America, etc. used to be named after saints, according to the book 'Hurricanes', by Ivan R. Tannehill. Hurricane Santa Ana struck Puerto Rico in 1825, and two San Felipe hurricanes reached the island in 1876 and 1928. The Hurricane Center began giving Atlantic tropical storms people's names in 1953, when the US abandoned a plan to name them after its phonetic military alphabet, such as Able, Baker and Charlie. The Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization now maintains the Atlantic lists and ones for three areas of the Pacific Ocean; two sections of the Indian Ocean; and the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Australian regions. Those lists are reused at different intervals and contain indigenous names, such as the Thai name Prapiroon. All the names were women's until 1978, when men's were included for some Pacific storms. In 1979, male names were added to the list for the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico region, known as the Atlantic Basin. The names alternate between males and females and also between English, French and Spanish origin.

2014 Hurricane Names 

The following names will be used for named storms that form in the North Atlantic in 2013.

Arthur Hanna Omar
Bertha Ike Paloma
Cristobal Josephine Rene
Dolly Kyle  Sally
Edouard Laura Teddy
Fay Marco Vicky
Gustav Nana Wilfred

Names are given to tropical storms, which are those with sustained winds of at least 39 miles an hour. When winds blow consistently at 74 miles an hour or more, the storm becomes a hurricane.  

Hurricane history (a) 1609-1962 that affected Bermuda

1609. Bermuda was colonized in July as the direct result of a hurricane. On July 24, a hurricane sank one ship and threw the flagship Sea Venture so far off course that it was wrecked on a reef in Bermuda on July 28. All 150, including John Rolfe and his pregnant wife were saved. But Mrs. Rolfe and her daughter Bermuda died in Bermuda. The colonists rebuilt two boats from the wreckage. See Admiral Sir George Somers colonized Bermuda
1619. November 1619. A decade after the Sea Venture storm, another hurricane struck the island, sending the Earl of Warwick's ship, Warwick, to the shallow bottom of Castle Harbour.
1620. After being toppled by a hurricane, Moore's Mount was rebuilt just after Easter  by Governor Butler as a triangular work.
1629. At St. George's, Butler's watchtower was thrown down the hill by a passing hurricane.
1689. Governor Richard Coney complained to the Lords of Council in London how great storms constantly made him and his family take shelter at a neighbor's house. 
1712. September 8. The first of two severe hurricanes hit the Island. Many of Bermuda’s historical buildings, including St. Peter’s Church in St. George’s, were damaged. Since Bermuda’s first settlers had built almost everything out of cedar wood, including commercial buildings and churches, many were destroyed. It was as a direct result of these hurricanes that the decision was taken to construct buildings from limestone, as opposed to wood and thus withstand hurricanes better. New construction methods were developed to cut stone from hillsides to create solid limestone buildings of which many still exist.
1780. On October 10, one of the most severe hurricanes ever recorded struck Bermuda. Fifty ships were driven ashore, with much damage. Houses were destroyed. Cedar trees were torn up bodily by the roots. The tide rose to a great height. It was known as "The Great Hurricane" having earlier hit Barbados with winds upwards of 200 miles per hour and caused widespread death and damage, before marching up the West Indies chain and onwards to Bermuda. It's death toll has not been exceeded.
1831. Bermudians were amazed to see, on August 11, 12 and 13, the sun with a decidedly blue appearance, giving off an eerie blue light when it shone into rooms and other enclosed places. Ships at sea as far west as Cape Hatteras reported that "their white sails appeared a light blue colour." A month later it was learned that the astounding blue sunlight had coincided with a terrible hurricane that caused 1,477 people to lose their lives. It was assumed that the hurricane was intensive enough to cause unusual disturbance in the higher atmospheric strata, and refraction, diffraction or absorption of light rays, to cause the blue reflection.
1832. June. Powerful gales swept Bermuda.
1839. September. A hurricane caused great damage. It occurred while Sir William Reid was here as Governor, which gave him further insights into hurricanes, on which he had published the first scientific tome on such a stormy topic the previous year.
1880. "Reid's" Hurricane struck. 
1889. September 12/13, a hurricane devastated the Causeway linking St. George's Island to the Main Island. It had to be rebuilt. Also destroyed was the Breakwater at the Dockyard, which had to be repaired.
1900. September 17. Winds of hurricane force. Near miss.
1915. September 3/4, a hurricane caused the steamer Pollokshields to be wrecked on the reefs of the South Shore. The master lost his life. Heavy rain and 82 mph winds.
1916. Hurricane on September 23.
1917. September 4, storm with unprecedented tides.
1918. September 4/5. Direct-hit hurricane.
1921. September 15. Almost direct-hit hurricane, with 120 mph gusts.
1922. Hurricane direct-hit on September 21. Winds to 120 mph and 8-foot storm surge.
1923. September 30. Storm passed to NW with winds up to 62 mph.
1926. October 22. Havana-Bermuda Hurricane Category 4 direct-hit, winds of 114 mph. It killed 88 in Bermuda, caused the most destruction ever in Bermuda to date and caused $100 million in damages. Category Four. When it passed directly over the Island, there were wind gusts of up to 143 knots. Two British warships, the Calcutta and the Valerian sank and the 88 who died during this storm were all sailors and officers onboard the Valerian. It was ultimately responsible for a total of 738 deaths, including 650 people in Cuba. See under this date in http://www.bermuda-online.org/history1900-1951.htm 

1926 hurricane

1932. November 12. Storm passed 100 miles to east, with wind gusts to 91 mph.
1939. October 16. Hurricane passed 50 miles east, winds up to 100 mph with gusts 131 mph. Heavy rain.
1947. October 20. Hurricane 40 miles to NW with winds up to 100 mph.
1948(i). September 13. Hurricane 50 miles to west, 800-100 mph winds, telephones and power cut.
1948(ii). October 7. Hurricane direct-hit. Winds 110 mph.
1953(i). September 5. Hurricane Carol passed 200 miles west, giving Bermuda 50-60 mph winds.
1953(ii). September 12. Tropical Storm Dolly passed over, but only with rain and gales.
1953(iii). September 17. Hurricane Edna passed within 50 miles with winds of 120   mph, torrential rain and much damage to roofs. Three persons were injured.
1958. September 28. Hurricane was 230 miles off, with 30 mph winds but pounding surf.
1961. October 6/7. Hurricane Frances veered away, little wind but pounding surf.
1962. October 6. Hurricane Daisy misses by 120 miles, winds to 66 mph with heavy surf.

Hurricane history (b) 1963-present that affected Bermuda

1963. August 9. Hurricane Arlene a direct-hit, winds to 90 mph, much damage to vegetation. She had been threatening the Island for almost a week before she came ashore. In her wake she left hundreds of boats, homes and vast areas of vegetation destroyed or damaged. It was the first time in a decade that a hurricane had not veered its course away from the Island.
1964. The outer bands of Hurricane Gladys lashed Bermuda with winds but little damage if any was officially reported. However, it caused some problems. At the USA's Naval Operating Base, Bermuda, the emergency duty station for military personnel based there was the motor pool, which at that time was located in the old seaplane hanger. They were safe enough, but were basically trapped without food. Several attempted to reach the galley for supplies but were driven back by the storm. At one point the eye passed directly over the base. They jumped into several vehicles and raced to the mess hall to stock up of food and ran back to the hanger as the eye passed by and the storm resumed. Other than the above-mentioned US Navy base in Southampton Parish, which had it's own power house and underground utilities the only light visible from the base was Gibbs Hill Lighthouse. 
1965. Hurricane Anna was not a direct threat to Bermuda.
1966. August 31. Fringe of Hurricane Faith, heavy rain and winds to 62 mph.
1973. July 3/4. Hurricane Alice, minimal 26 miles away, but heavy rain.
1975. September 26. Hurricane Faye 40 miles away, strong winds, heavy rain.
1977. September 27. Hurricane Dorothy 60 miles to SE, heavy rain.
1981. September 7. Hurricane Emily passed over, only with 35 mph winds.
1987. September 25. Hurricane Emily, only a Category One,  moved unexpectedly swiftly, causing tornados, chaos and much damage. With wind gusts recorded up to 125 mph, many were caught off guard as the storm was expected to miss the Island. Small, but vicious and spawning several tornadoes, Emily caused widespread chaos and damage - mostly to cars and boats, though houses experienced severe damage during the storm’s passage as well. St. George’s was hit hard, as was the Hamilton Princess hotel when all 80 windows shattered. More than 100 people were treated at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital for broken bones from flying debris and part of the hospital’s roof was blown off. Ultimately Emily caused $35 million in damage to the Island. No one was killed but Emily was the strongest hurricane to hit Bermuda since 1948.
1989. August 4. Tropical Storm Dean 23 miles away with 90 mph winds.
1991. October 27/29. Hurricane Grace forms in Bermuda area, hovers, gave massive seas.
1995. August 14. Hurricane Felix 50 miles away, winds  up to 75 mph, pounding surf for 3 days on South Shore. Felix was expected to pass within 14 miles of Bermuda but suddenly veered away, saving the Island from a direct impact. Despite that, Bermuda felt hurricane-strength winds for more than eight hours, and a long-awaited Independence referendum had to be postponed. The storm cut the power to around 18,000 homes and caused an estimated $2.5 million in damages.
1996. October 20. Hurricane Lily 140 miles to SE, rain and 42-knot winds.
1997. October 8/9. Hurricane Erika 300 miles away, no damage.
1998(i). September 2/3. Hurricane Danielle 200 miles NW. Rain, thunderstorms, winds to 46 mph.
1998(ii). September 21/22. Hurricane Karl formed near Bermuda. Winds were up to 44 mph with heavy showers and thundershowers.
1998(iii). November 6. Hurricane Mitch. Extensive damage beyond Bermuda but heavy rain and wind gusts in Bermuda to 69 mph.
1999. September 21. Hurricane Gert passed 120 miles east of Bermuda. Wind gusts of up to 75 mph, many beaches damaged.
2000. September 16. Hurricane Florence 60 miles away. Winds up to 50 knots.
2001(i). September 9. Hurricane Erin was 90 miles to E. But with only tropical storm force winds that caused battering waves and some coastal erosion.
2001.(ii) October 7. Tropical Storm Michelle threatened but fizzled on approach. Little damage.
2001. (iii). October. Although Karen didn’t become a hurricane until she was already moving away from the Island, the system caught Bermuda by surprise, rapidly building from a low-pressure disturbance to a tropical storm on our doorstep. Winds reached 74mph, near-hurricane status, destroying vegetation and downing power lines, leaving more than two-thirds of the Island without power.
2002. September 30. Hurricane Kyle came within 100 nautical miles to the south, but with little effect.
2003. September 5. Hurricane Fabian ravaged Bermuda. It was the strongest storm to hit Bermuda's coast in four decades. It began mildly when Bermuda woke to winds gusting between 25 mph and 37 mph as Hurricane Fabian had it sights set on Bermuda. The hurricane approached the Island from the south, south-west and moved north. The eye of the storm, which was 50 miles from north to south and 30 miles from east to west, then travelled across the Island bringing the highest winds. The wall of the eye skirted to the West sitting on the Island for about three hours in the north-east quadrant, traditionally the strongest part of the storm. By 5.55 p.m. when the strongest winds of 150 mph were recorded, the Island had already lost four lives on the Causeway.  They all died when they were swept from the Causeway during the hurricane.  P.C. Stephen Antoine Symons, 37, P.C. Nicole O'Connor, 29, Station Duty Officer, Gladys Saunders, 48, were trapped on the bridge in one car. Stephen Antoine Symons 'Chicken', 37, was one of two officers escorting Station Duty Officer Gladys Saunders, back to her home in Duck's Puddle, Hamilton Parish. A civilian, Manuel Pacheco, 23, an employee of the Corporation of Hamilton, was stuck in a second care behind them at about 2.30 p.m. He was returning home after securing his boat in St. David's. Although attempts were made to save them, fire fighters, police officers and a constructions worker had to abort the mission when the storm became too bad. The body of P.C. Symons was found two days later and the other victims were never seen again. During the day of Fabian there were reported gusts closer to 160 mph, however, around 4.55 p.m. the Bermuda Weather Service's monitoring equipment had shorted as water surged eight feet above sea level and recording stopped for two hours. The Weather Service crew were lucky to still have equipment to monitor after their meteorologist Brian Kolts told the Royal Gazette that five more knots would have blown the roof off their bombproof US military-made shelter. At about 6.55 p.m., the eye was north of Bermuda and the winds switched direction to come from a westerly direction on the comparatively weaker side of the storm. And by 11.55 p.m the next day, the hurricane winds had officially passed over the Island, with sustained speeds of 40 knots (46 mph) gusting to 52 knots (60 mph) hitting the Island. From then on, there was a steady decline in wind speed as Fabian blew out into the Atlantic northwards, and by 4.55 a.m. on Saturday the Weather Centre was barely registering tropical storm conditions, with sustained winds at 36 knots (41 mph). But what it left in it's wake was anything but calm. Estimated costs for damage from the storm ran in the area of $300 million. Around 25,000 out of 32,000 homes and businesses were left without power, though by mid-afternoon on Sunday, BELCO reported that 11,000 homes had their power restored. A 20-strong team from the Caribbean Electric Association, in Cayman, arrived on the Tuesday to offer help where they could. The East End of the Island, however, was cut-off for days after the Causeway was impassable. Days later it was open to one-way traffic, but still closed at night and finally in October the main artery of the Island was running as normal. Bermuda's hotels suffered, with the majority of the Sonesta Beach Hotel's roof flying off and the Fairmont Southampton also struggled to replace its roof. Fabian conveniently hit at the beginning of the school year and meant the opening of Government schools was delayed a week and they did not open until September 15. St. George's prep spent months recovering after the storm which wreaked havoc on the building and two years after Hurricane Fabian ravaged the Island The Department of Parks and the Ministry of Works and Engineering started repairing the entrance to Church Bay, which was badly damaged. Later, the September 5th Foundation, a registered charity, erected a memorial bench in Kindley Field Park, near to the scene of the tragedy. The foundation since created a scholarship fund for the Fabian victims' children. 
2006. September. Hurricane Florence caused only superficial damage overall. 23,000 out of 68,500 residents had electricity outages.  Only one hotel was damaged, with the beach of another having disappeared. American and Canadian newspapers, Internet services and other news sources gave the hurricane extensive coverage but there was no mention of it in the United Kingdom's BBC or newspapers or European equivalents.
2010. September 19. Hurricane Igor, predicted to be a monster storm — a 500-nautical-mile-wide Category Three — the system collapsed before landing, but side-swiped the island during the night with high winds, waves, rain and some flooding in places. However, caused no deaths or serious injuries. Damage was mostly superficial as homes and hotels are stone-built, not wood. But trees fell onto roads and electricity, cable TV, radio, television and Internet outages occurred. No mention in the UK. The hurricane was reduced to a Category One storm by the time it neared the Island, and did not come as close as anticipated. However the storm still caused flooding in Somerset and St George’s and tore several boats from their moorings, including Government tender Bermudian. Around 80 percent of Belco customers, 28,700 homes and businesses, lost power. Electricity was restored to all but 5,600 homes the next day.

American system of hurricane assessment - used in Bermuda

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale classifies hurricanes thus:

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Last Updated: July 20, 2014.
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