What is the terrain and geography like in Jamaica?
Jamaica is the third-largest Caribbean island and lies nearly 600 miles south of Miami, Florida. The island is 146 miles long and 51 miles across at its widest point. Except for narrow coastal plains mainly on the island's south side, the landscape is one of sharp, crested ridges, unique "cockpit" formations, and deep, twisting valleys. Almost half the island is more than 1,000 feet above sea level. Some 50% of the island is used for agriculture, 40% is woodland, and the remaining 10% is divided between mining and urban areas.
Kingston, the capital, is on the southeast coast and has the world's seventh-largest natural harbor. From sea level at city center, the terrain rises to 1,800 feet. Jamaica's 120 rivers flow to the coasts from the central mountain ranges.
Jamaica enjoys a favorable climate. Daily temperatures average 79°F, with an average maximum of 86.5°F and an average minimum of 71.5°F. Temperatures vary depending on elevation, however for all locations, the warmest months are June to August and the coolest months are December to February. Northeast trade winds help maintain a feeling of relative comfort.
Elevation and the island's geography affect temperature and rainfall markedly. Rainfall varies from an annual average of 35 to 200 inches depending on location. Rainfall is generally heaviest during May-June and September-November, though these are not rainy seasons in the tropical sense. Mildew is a problem during these months. December-March are the driest months. Relative humidity in Kingston ranges from about 70-85%.
Jamaica is in the earthquake and hurricane belts, but has not had a disastrous earthquake since 1907, though there are usually a few tremors every year. In September 2004, the island was struck by Hurricane Ivan, the first since Hurricane Gilbert devastated much of the island in 1988. The main force of the storm affected the entire island, especially the southern coastal areas, and caused widespread damage, mainly to crops and vegetation, coastal properties, utilities, and roofs.
Jamaica has over 600 insect species as well as 250 bird species-25 of which belong only to Jamaica. About 120 species of butterflies, including the world's largest (with a 6 inch wingspan), are also found here. The island is especially noted for its fireflies, otherwise known as blinkies or peeny-waullies.
A profusion of flowering shrubs, trees, and cactuses reflects Jamaica's great variation of climate and topography. Hundreds of imported plants are well established. Pimento, or allspice, is from an indigenous plant, and Jamaica is the world's largest producer. The ortanique, developed in Jamaica, is a cross between an orange and a tangerine. Jamaica also has over 220 species of native orchids, over 500 different ferns, more than 300 mosses, and many fungi.