Every year we are asked about whether traveling to Belize or the tropics is a good idea during ‘the rainy season’. Slickrock is not open during this time (summer and fall) and it is partly due to bad weather in Belize, although the weather in the summer (June – August) is often not too severe until hurricane season arrives in September (although it can, of course, begin earlier). The other reason we close our operation during this time is due to the general decrease in interest people have in going south for the summer.
The rainy season, which affects all tropical regions on the planet, is caused by the equatorial weather zone – a low pressure, rain bearing climate zone – migrating north or south depending on the season. In the northern hemisphere’s summer, this climate zone moves north, affecting the latitudes of Central America and the Caribbean. This weather pattern creates periods of intense rainfall and humid, muggy weather which starts in June and lasts until November. However, the rain patterns are not the typical daily rainshowers during the afternoon which mist people associate with tropical rainy seasons. Rather, Central America experiences a series of tropical ‘waves’ of low pressure which sweep ashore off the Caribbean. These waves bring in 4-5 days of intense rains, then clear out. So in fact Belize and its neighboring countries have long periods of good weather in the summer, interspersed with rain events of a few days. Central America in general does not get the equatorial daily downpours found in such places as the rainforests of the Amazon or Congo.
The fall sees the most intense period of Belize’s rainy season. More frequent and more intense tropical waves sweep ashore, and monthly rainfall totals are the highest of the year. The trade winds slack off and it gets extremely hot and humid. This is the time of the year when hurricanes become a threat, as tropical storms in the Caribbean are able to grow and intensify into monster storms due to the heat content of the sea and low wind shear.
As fall approaches winter, the equatorial climate zone retreats south and a drier, cooler climate moves in. The tropical waves cease and rainfall decreases, and by spring the dry season is firmly entrenched and we sometimes see no rain at all for two months at a time!