The Climate of Belize
Belize is situated on the Caribbean coast of Central America with Mexico to the North and Guatemala to the west and south. It lies between 15º 45' and 18º 30' N and 87º 30' and 89º 15' W. The terrain is low and flat along coastal areas and in some northern regions of the country while in the central and southern regions low mountains rise gradually to a height of 3,685 feet.
The climate of Belize is characterized by two seasons: a rainy and a dry season. In Belize, most of the year’s rainfall occurs during the period June to November, that is, the rainy season. It is noted from the graph's below that the transition from dry to the rainy across the country are very sharp. Mean annual rainfall across Belize ranges from 60 inches (1524mm) in the north to 160 inches (4064mm) in the south. Except for the southern regions, the rainfall is variable from year to year.
Graph's Below shows the distribution of the average monthly rainfall data for Belize from North to South and East to West.
Stann Creek | Southern Regions | Punta Gorda (Toledo), Middlesex, Melinda & Savannah [Graphs 1 - 4]
Central and Western Regions | Philip Goldson Intl Airport (Belize District), Belmopan, Central Farm, Spanish Lookout (Cayo) [Graphs 5 - 8]
Northern Region | Libertad (Corozal) and Tower Hill (Orange Walk District) [Graphs 9-10]
The onset of the rainy season begins in the early May in Toledo, progressing north to the Stann Creek, Belize, Cayo and Orange Walk District in late May, followed by Corozal District in early June. The onset was determined by the first occurrence after the 1st of May in which there was more than an inch of rainfall in seven days with at least four days receiving some rainfall.
In the south the rainfall is further enhanced by the intrusion of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) as it journeys northwards. Orographic lifting over steep slopes in the south also enhances rainfall activity. The southern region has one maximum which occurs in the month of July and is by far the wettest month.
Central Regions show a primary and secondary maxima occurring in June and September. Each of these is significantly less than the single maximum for the south.
The data for the Northern region show that rainfall is more evenly distributed during the same period with no significant variation as in the other regions.
The rainy season exhibits a break or mark decrease in the month of August. This break is known as the "Mauga" season. However, this pattern is not evident in the Toledo district.
The main synoptic features that produce on the rainfall are Tropical waves, Tropical storms and Hurricanes which moves westward through the Caribbean from June to November. Tropical waves can be active or inactive systems and peak activity occurs during the months of June and July. Tropical storms and hurricanes peak during the months of September and October even though they vary in number from year to year. Figure 2 shows that most of the tropical storms and hurricanes frequent the area during the month of September.
|Total Number of Storms|
In addition there are cold fronts that progress southeastward from the Continental USA into the Northwest Caribbean. The effect of frontal activity on rainfall distribution and therefore climatic conditions begins in October and ends in April peaking through December and January. A cold front moves across Belize about once every 10 days.
Other features include upper level troughs and cold core lows to lesser degrees; these sometimes interact with surface low level troughs resulting in the enhancement of precipitation. Below is a table showing the frequency of the synoptic systems that affect Belize.
The transition from wet to dry is a gradual process. The dry season is from November to May with April as the driest month. The dry season can be subdivided into a cool transition from November to February, as a result of the incursion of frontal systems and a warm dry period from March to May when high pressure systems in the Atlantic produce stable and windy south easterlies.
Four Year Compilation of Synoptic Weather Systems Crossing Belize
During a four year period (1994-1998) a catalogue of weather systems traversing Belize was compiled. The systems documented included upper level troughs, cold fronts, tropical waves (easterly waves), stationary fronts (fronts which did not make a complete passage), warm fronts (cold fronts that eventually retrogressed), surface troughs (pre-frontal, squall lines and non-frontal troughs), cold core upper atmospheric cyclones and mid/upper level cyclones (not of the cold core variety)
Figure 3 below shows the compilation of four years of synoptic weather systems.
The following abbreviations are used to represent the systems in Figure 3
SfT - Surface Trough; CFr - Cold Fronts; TW - Tropical Waves; StFr - Stationary Fronts; WFr - Warm Fronts; ULT - Upper Level Troughs; CCL - Cold Core Lows; MUL - Mid/Upper Level Low
Four-year compilation of weather systems crossing Belize from 1994-1998.
Upper level troughs show no preferential time of occurrence. Although cold fronts affect the country from October through to April the most likely months for frontal passages are December, January and February (Figure 4). In December and January fronts are most likely to become stationary over Belize. Surface troughs show a modal frequency in November with secondary maxima in December. Cold core lows frequently occur in the months of July, August and September. Those not of the cold core variety are found most frequently in July and August.
|Total Number of Cold Fronts|
The mean temperature varies from 81°F/ 27°C along the coast to 69°F/21°C in the hills. The coldest month is January while the highest temperatures are experienced during the month of May.
Inland stations tend to have more extreme temperatures than coastal stations where the sea breeze moderates the temperature. For example average maximum and minimum temperatures at Central Farm are both hotter and colder than those of the Philip Goldson International Airport.
Average Annual temperatures at Central Farm (Cayo), Philip Goldson Int’l Airport and Cooma Cairn
|Stations||Average Maximum||Average Minimum|
|Inland||Central Farm||88.3°F | 31.3°C||68.9°F | 20.5°C|
|Coast||Philip Goldson International Airport||86.2°F | 30.1°C||72.6°F | 22.6°C|
|Mountain||Cooma Cairn||77.5°F | 25.3°C||63.8°F | 17.7°C|
Philip Goldson International Airport has an elevation of 5 meters above sea level and is located 5 miles from the coast; Cooma Cairn is located in the Mountain Pine Ridge Area and is 952 meters above sea level. The difference between the average temperatures between the two stations is about 8.8°F/4.8°C indicating a decrease of temperature with height.
Figure 5 show graphs of average maximum, minimum and average temperatures of six stations across the country.
Smith, D.T. and W.F. Panton , "On the Climate of Belize and Some Implications for National Economic Development: Belcast Journal of Belizean Affairs-Vol.3, Nos. 1&2, June 1986.
Walker, S.H., Summary of Climatic Records for Belize. Surrey, England: Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Land Resources Division, 1973
Gonguez, D. S. "Synoptic Weather Systems" Belize: National Meteorological Service
Frutos, R. "Monthly Weather Bulletin: Vol. 3 No. 8 August 1995"