Sunny winter on a tropical island

It’s winter; while most people are normally out in heavy coats, wearing gloves and scarves to protect them from the low temperatures, others are starting to feel a slight chill and decide to wear shirts indoors. An example of one of these places is Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico, normally known to be a magical island whose weather is “perpetual summer”, is feeling the effects of winter now. While it may not be anywhere as cold as in the continental United States, it is a noticeable decline in temperature to the island’s inhabitants.

“It’s been cold lately; we’ve felt wind chills at night reaching the high 60°s F,” said Jesús Montañez  of Carolina, who lives up in the mountains of Puerto Rico, “but it’s nowhere as cold as in the peaks in other parts of the island.” The average weather around this time of year for Carolina is around the mid- to low- 70°sF, making the temperature slightly lower than usual. This is noticeable for people in a country whose ‘wear-a-jacket’ days are around the mid-70°sF, and those rarely happen.

Carolina is in the north of the island, where temperatures generally don’t reach too low, but if we head toward the center of the island we’ll find varying temperatures not found elsewhere in Puerto Rico. In the city of Ponce, Puerto Rico’s most populated city besides the capital, one of the highest peaks in the island is located. Cerro Maravilla (Wonder Hill) is known for two things: murder and cold weather. The latter has some of the records for lowest temperatures recorded on the island outside of freak incidents. At night, the temperature will fluctuate between 40°s and 60°sF, but recently it’s seemed as though it’s nearing a new low. “The temperatures recorded up in Cerro Maravilla have reached about 45°F, only 2 degrees higher than the record low. We’re expecting the record to be broken any day now,” said Lydia Martínez “not that it makes much difference to the rest of the island, but that’s where we get excitement from recently.”

If we move to the east of the island, we find El Yunque (The Anvil) National Forest, the only tropical rain forest in the United States National Forest System. Spanning an area of 28,002 acres, its tallest peak El Toro (The Bull) can easily reach the mid-50°F during winter but has been recently dipping lower than usual. “It worries people that the climate changes could harm our fauna in El Yunque but they’ll adapt,” said Luis Berrios of San Juan “although many of our species are endangered, […] there’s a lot of concern about the temperature going too low.”

Puerto Rican and United States flags
Puerto Rican and United States flags with clear skies behind in December. San Juan, Puerto Rico.

While many states in North America have been worrying about winter not coming yet, the residents of Puerto Rico want winter to go away, since it feels out of place on the tropical island. No matter what the temperature is or which season they’re in, you can bet you’ll see the beaches in San Juan filled of both residents and tourists enjoying the winter, showing that no matter what, Puerto Rico will always have perpetual summer.

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