Editor's note: The following is from the forthcoming book, Expats in Ecuador: Living in Cuenca, by Deke Castleman and David Morrill. The book will be available in late January.
One of the most perplexing aspects of life in Cuenca -- and one of the most important to expats -- is the weather. It’s not only a point of confusion with expats, but even with locals who’ve lived in it all their lives.
You’ll also notice, once you’re in the country, that there’s no “news, sports, and weather” on the six p.m. TV broadcast -- only news and sports. Also, you won’t find the Weather Channel in the local cable-TV lineup.
A common complaint of those planning trips is the difficulty finding accurate online weather forecasts for Cuenca and Ecuador. Internet weather sites, such as Weather.com and Yahoo Weather, often carry the same report day after day, almost always predicting rain. During the 2010 record drought, online forecasts predicted rain every day even though Cuenca only had two showers in five months.
There’s a reason for the lousy forecasting. Predicting the weather on the equator, beyond a few hours in advance, is almost impossible.
Weather here is determined by a number of factors, the most prominent being the equatorial or intertropical convergence zone, often referred to by sailors as “the doldrums.” This is the area where northeast and southeast trade winds converge and die out, preventing the organization of the strong weather fronts to which the northern hemisphere is accustomed. There are no strong high-pressure ridges or low-pressure troughs around here.
Without the strong high- and low-pressure differentials, you’ll also notice that weather patterns (cloudier, sunnier, even rainier) can last for several days.
For the Record
The 30-year historic temperature averages for Cuenca show a daily high of 70.2F and an overnight low of 50.1F. The highest temperature ever recorded was 82F, while the lowest was 29F.
Average annual rainfall is 28.6 inches, roughly the average for the Northeastern U.S., with April and May being the wettest (4.25 inches each) and July and August are the driest (about one inch per month).
No snow has been recorded in Cuenca within the past 50 years but as much as 12 inches has fallen in the Cajas Mountains, less than 15 miles from city limits. On rare occasions, it is possible to see snow on top of the Cajas foothills just west of Cuenca.
Average relative humidity is about 65%, but due to cool temperatures, the dew point keeps things comfortable. On sunny days, it’s not uncommon to see humidity levels drop below 20%, and low humidity is a frequent complaint of some expats. Keep the chapstick handy.
Cuenca averages 2,085 hours of annual sunshine, slightly above the national Ecuadorian average of 2,041, which is to say it’s sunnier than San Francisco and Seattle, but about 30% less sunny than Miami and nearly 50% less than Las Vegas. For comparison purposes, average annual hours of sunshine in Ecuador are roughly similar to those in much of the U.S. Midwest. For the record, Cuenca is slightly sunnier than coastal cities such as Salinas and Manta.
Although the 30-year historical weather record is not available online, the Washington Post has a 10-year average at www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/weather/longterm/historical/data/cuenca_ecuador.htm, that correlates fairly closely with the 30-year average.
Photo caption: Snow in the Cajas Mountains, just west of Cuenca.