Rainfall is pretty rare on the south of the island, in the main tourist heartlands and resort areas like Puerto Rico de Gran Canaria, Playa de Mogán, Arguineguín, Maspalomas & Playa del Inglés, in the municipalities Mogán and San Bartolomé de Tirajana. In fact, as we head into winter there have only been two or three short showers since Spring earlier this year.
“You see, the island moves as a great ship through the clouds, her bow in the temperate capital, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, and her stern in the more tropical zone of Mogán.”
As the prevailing winds, known as the Trade Winds or Alisios, blow from the North East to the South West; any rain clouds that do find their way to these sub-tropical islands are usually caught up in the northern foothills, where we have much higher rainfall. They have to find their way around, or even up and over, our higher altitude mountain summits.
The good ship Gran Canaria ploughs through these clouds, dividing them, meaning that we often get fast-moving winds on the northwest points and all the way down the east coasts, with grey weather tending to completely miss the sunnier south and south-western areas, in the lee of the island. If a storm does hit us, these, aft, southerly areas mostly continue to enjoy bright blue skies in the wake of a fairly constant “bubble of sunshine”, as described by the Gurus over at Gran Canaria Info.
An exception to this occurs when storms or depressions form in the mid-Atlantic Ocean, depending on their position and direction of travel, their cyclical nature can appear to ‘suck’ warm air off the African continent, bringing us hot winds, and even Saharan sands, from the east, potentially feeding the low-pressure system over colder oceanic waters. If such a storm moves towards us then these winds can quickly reverse to blow from the West and the South.
Should a storm be travelling north, towards the Tropic of Cancer, then more often than not, we here on Gran Canaria are protected from its effects by Mount Teide, on Tenerife. The Islands west of Tenerife, however, will oftentimes receive large, even torrential, downpours without a drop of it ever reaching these islands, in the province of Las Palmas, east of Spain’s tallest mountain and volcano.
There are times, though fairly rare, when storms rumble around the Atlantic Ocean, sending us Southerly winds, and bringing with them storm clouds that can suddenly surprise us with rain showers and, very occasionally, squalls travelling along the coasts and even heading inland from our usually sunnier holiday spots.
All of this makes what rainfall we do get on the south notoriously hard to predict, with professional meteorologists and sailors alike working hard to forecast the potential motion of any weather system that could disrupt our annual average of nearly “eight hours a day” of sunshine and blue skies. All in all, few visitors are ever likely to experience a rainy day here, and if they do it is usually very short-lived, but experience has taught us, as it has all the islanders, to keep one eye on the horizons, particularly around mid-autumn, winter and into early Spring, just in case an unusually dark cloud might appear to be headed in this direction, as once or twice every four to six years or so, we do receive an island-wide almighty deluge, turning the weather we are all used to on its head.
And to tell the truth, we are pretty much always most grateful for it. It is these occasional cloudbursts of lashing rain that fill our reservoirs and feed our crops, lowering our dependence on imported foods and fuels used to desalinate water from the seas, though that is a technology more and more enabled by renewable energies like solar, wind and wave power.
So, if you are on the south, and you hear a rain warning, there is usually no need to worry: know that it is very unusual and that it may not even arrive as predicted, but when it does it can do so with force, never usually more than for a day or two, and most often for much less time than that, and we relish it as surely as a sunny day in Edinburgh must be embraced and enjoyed, in the knowledge that everything will quickly return to normal, leaving us all better off for the change.