When we arrived in Panama, a friend told us about the strong winds that occur during the winter months. The months of Dec through about May, although they are technically winter, are often referred to as summer. This is because the weather is very warm (80s and 90s - Fahrenheit) and it rarely rains. Naturally, this makes it high tourist and "snowbird" season as well.
Since our arrival in early January, we've had many windy days. The winds are strong and sustained - I'm guessing 30-35 MPH during gusts. This condition often lasts for several days.
The strange thing is that these winds are apparently tied to cold fronts in North America. Wierd, huh? It was explained to us that when the US has a large cold front, we get strong winds in Panama (and other parts of Central America). I really didn't understand how the two could be connected but as we watched the weather forecasts in the US, there seemed to be a consistent correlation. When a large cold front hits the Northeast, for example, we know we're going to have several days of strong winds here in Panama.
From some cursory research, the only simple explanation I could find for this phenomenon is this:
- A high-pressure cold front hits the US
- The cold front migrates down to the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean
- This high pressure area over the Gulf and Caribbean contrasts with the warmer, low pressure area over the Pacific, to the west
- Since air will flow from a high pressure area to a low pressure area, winds blow across many parts of Central America, from the Caribbean side to the Pacific side, creating strong wind currents. The greater the pressure differential, the stronger the winds.
The community in which we live, Los Molinos, is located on an open, flat area and aside from some trees, there is very little to break the wind. It is known for having strong winds (Los Molinos means The Windmills - there's a clue). These winds occur in the winter but the temperature is warmer than the valley in which the town of Boquete is located and there is less rain. We think it's a good tradeoff.
For the last 5-6 days, however, we've been experiencing the strongest winds we've had since our arrival. Even people who have lived here for years say it's unusual. According to our property manager, who reports weather data for a local tracking program, winds have been 40-45 MPH, with gusts up to about 50MPH! That's some serious wind! The wind howls, rumbles, and whistles around our condo building and it's loud enough to wake us up at night. It's been blowing day and night, with only occasional and short-lived lulls.
This video gives you an idea of how the wind blows the trees behind our condo (as seen from our screened-in patio):
The small pond that is near the entrance to our development (and across from our condo building) actually has white caps on it:
I'm not sure how much longer this situation is going to last. Other than the wind, the weather is beautiful this time of year. When we go into Boquete or David, it is breezy but not the level of wind that we have at the condo.
Posted by Mark