When I say Caribbean, what comes to mind? Sprawling sun-bleached beaches and crystal clear oceans massaging the white-gold shoreline?
Colorful flora and fauna and mind blowing sea life? Volcanoes, cocktails and sunbathing? Well, yeah… me too.
Even when thinking of specific islands, such as Cuba, we picture perpetual sun, as if they exist outside the seasonal ferris wheel the rest of the world is stuck on year round, but is this the case, or on the down-low, do places like Cuba see a lot of snow?
Read on and all shall be revealed!
Temperatures In Cuba?
Setting sail from Key West, the southernmost point of the Florida coastline, it’s a 90-nautical mile trip to the Caribbean island of Cuba, situated right on the intersection between the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico.
As you’d assume, this part of the globe gets pretty dang hot, and Cuba’s no exception.
The island nation’s subtropical climate offers an average annual temperature of roughly 78.8° F (or 26° C).
During the warmer months, Cuba stands to get even more steamy, with averages often reaching the 81° F mark (27.2° C).
What’s more, during the colder season – if you can call it that – between the months of November and February, temperatures only plummet as far as 64° F (18° C), which in a lot of places on the globe would still be considered a lovely day.
But what does this mean for the possibility of snowfall?
Does It Snow In Cuba?
Considering the average temperatures discussed above, it should come as no surprise that, no, for the most part, Cuba will not get a single flake of snow, but it’s not just the air temperature that keeps Jack Frost at bay across the beaches and streets of Cuba.
Take a look at Cuba on a map and you’ll see a long, thin scar of land amongst adjoining oceans… warm oceans.
For example, the water temperature of the Gulf of Mexico is, on average, between 82 and 85° F, and it only goes slightly cooler when air temperatures drop due to the thermal inertia of massive water bodies.
Even if the air temperature did drop within the snowy sweet spot, which is generally agreed to be a stable ambient temperature of or below 32° F (0° C), the warmth of the surrounding waters would reheat the air, making snowfall impossible.
This is especially true for Cuba being that it’s so thin.
There are simply no central areas that are far enough from the coast that they’d be exempt from the ocean’s warming effect.
So, to summarize thus far, no… typically, it does not snow in Cuba, but that’s not to say that the wonderful island has never seen a sheet of the white stuff.
Has It Ever Snowed In Cuba?
As rare as cold conditions are across this island nation, it has absolutely snowed in Cuba before; however, there is only one recorded instance of such an event, and it took place on March 12th, 1857, so no living native will have experienced snow in their homeland.
What’s more, this one-in-a-million forecast only affected a very localized area of northern Cuba known as Cárdenas, a city and municipality of the Matanzas Province, situated approximately 72 miles from Cuba’s capital, the infamous Havana.
There hasn’t been a single flake of snowfall on Cuban territory since that fabled day, but temperatures did plummet far enough on one occasion that precipitation made the transformation into sleet.
That day way back in 2010, the temperature reached 35.9° F (1.9° C), which still isn’t quite frigid enough for snow, but pretty close by Cuban standards, and it was recorded, yet again, in the Matanzas Province in the Northern Territory of Cuba.
It’s a little strange that only the north of Cuba gets the cold spells, but it could well be to do with the particular ocean expanse the land faces.
Remember when I mentioned that Cuba exists at the nexus between three large bodies of water?
Well, Cárdenas, situated roughly halfway down the northern curve of Cuba, is technically facing northeast, which means it looks out over the Atlantic, composed of waters typically 3–5 times colder than those that make up the Gulf of Mexico.
As such, even though the true chill of the Atlantic wouldn’t occur for miles beyond the horizon, that cold would keep shore water temperatures cooler than coastal waters washing in from the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.
So, it seems as if the place to go for snow in Cuba is the northern coast, but even then, you could wait your entire life waiting to build a snowman, and you might only ever get a spot of sleet — That’s if you’re remarkably lucky, too!
Basically, if you’re into skiing and snowball fights, Cuba’s not for you.
Doesn’t Cuba Have Mountains? Does It Snow Up There?
Although the topography of Cuba is primarily flat, there is indeed a selection of hills and mountains in the south and to a certain extent the east, with the tallest being Pico Turquino which dominates the landscape at 6476 feet.
Second is Gran Piedra, which measures 4098 feet, followed closely by Pico San Juan which stands 3740 feet into the sky.
But even these, the largest of the Cuban mountains, won’t be found with a snowy hat the likes of which are seen on Mt. Fuji in Japan.
The mountains of Cuba aren’t nearly as desolate and are often covered with dense forestry teeming with wildlife.
And even the Cuban mountains that aren’t quite as lush with foliage still don’t see any snow.
If they were a tad taller, that might be different, as the air temperature wouldn’t be quite as influenced by the warmth of the sea, and with the altitude, it would be colder to begin with, but the snowline of a mountain is typically around 15,000 feet above sea level.
This means that Cuba’s tallest mountain is a whopping 8524 feet short of that picturesque white cap you see on taller mountains.
What Is The Coldest Cuba Has Ever Been?
The coldest recorded temperature in Cuba was 33° F (0.6° C) in Bainoa, but there have been some pretty nippy days in the capital city of Havana too, as the locals discovered in January of 1977 when the temperature plummeted to 43° F (6° C).
Cuba has a subtropical climate, and as it’s an exceedingly thin island boarded by quite warm waters, the air temperature almost never gets cold enough to support snowfall, so if you’re planning a trip to this Caribbean island, leave that wooly hat and gloves at home.
That being said, it has snowed in Cuba before – albeit over a century ago – in the northeastern city of Cárdenas, but thanks to global warming, I wouldn’t count on it ever happening again.
Climate change groups are warning that the Caribbean is becoming too hot for comfortable living, so snow really doesn’t have a chance.
Certain areas will be hit by unexpected cold air masses from time to time, but sleet may well be the limit of their impact.
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