Belize Topographical and Meteorological Information
Belize is located on the Central American mainland, forming part of the Yucatan Peninsula and lying between 15.75° and 18.5° north latitude, and 87.5° and 89.25° west longitude. It is bounded to the north by Mexico, to the west and south by Guatemala and to the east by the Caribbean Sea. The total land area is 22,960 sq km (8,867 square miles) of which 95% is located on the mainland and five per cent is distributed over more than 1060 islands. Total national territory (including territorial sea) is 46,620 sq km (approximately 18,000 square miles).
Most of the northern half and much of the southern third of the country, plus the entire coastal area and all the islands, are flat and low-lying. Large sections of the coastline have an elevation of less than 1 meter to a distance of several miles inland. In the north, topography of the land rises to a maximum of approximately 250 meters above sea level (a.s.l) in the extreme west of the country. The central part of the country is dominated by the Maya Mountain/Mountain Pine Ridge massif, rising to 1120 meters a.s.l (3,688 ft) at its highest point.
Northern Belize has a subtropical climate with an annual rainfall of 1500 mm (60 inches). Southward, the climate becomes increasingly tropical and annual rainfall increases to 3800 mm (150 inches). The climate is characterized by a marked wet and dry season separated by a cool transitional period. The rainy season begins in the south in the middle of May and arrives in the north in mid June. It continues through to November but most locations experience about a to day drier period in August. Some 60% of annual precipitation occurs during this season, produced primarily by tropical systems particularly tropical waves including tropical cyclones. The cool transition period occurs from November through February. Rainfall declines and approximately 12 cold fronts cross the country during these months. The true dry season is from February to April and is produced by strong anticyclones in the Atlantic that generate a persistent stable south-easterly airflow across the country.
Average maximum temperatures are near 85°F and the mean lows are in the low 70's. Summers are about 8 degrees warmer than winters. The diurnal temperature range in the interior is greater than that along the coast, where it is moderated by the sea breezes. For example, minimum temperatures in the interior are about 5 degrees cooler than those at coastal locations. The mountainous regions are also cooler, exhibiting a fall in temperature of 10°C per km (5°F/1000 ft.). Humidity hovers around 80% throughout the year, although somewhat lower during the months of the dry season.
Belize lies within the hurricane belt. Historically, tropical storms and hurricanes have affected the country once every three years. Belize City, the former capital was destroyed twice by hurricanes in the 20th century. Hurricanes can affect any part of the country but are more frequent in the north.