Climate and Weather
The climate in Belize is subtropical, with a mean annual temperature of 79°F, so you can expect a variance between 50 and 95°F. The dry season generally lasts from Decemberish through May and the wet season June through November, although it has been known to rain sporadically all the way into February.
Rainfall varies widely between the north and south of Belize. Corozal in the north receives 40–60 inches a year, while Punta Gorda averages 160–190 inches, with an average humidity of 85 percent. Occasionally during the winter, “Joe North” (a.k.a. cold fronts) sweeps down from North America across the Gulf of Mexico, bringing rainfall, strong winds, and cooling temperatures. Usually lasting only a couple of days, they often interrupt fishing and influence the activity of lobster and other fish. Fishers invariably report increases in their catches several days before a norther.
The “mauger” season, when the air is still and the sea is calm, generally comes in August; it can last for a week or more. All activity halts while locals stay indoors as much as possible to avoid the onslaught of mosquitoes and other insects.
Since record keeping began in 1787, scores of hurricanes have made landfall in Belize. In an unnamed storm in 1931, 2,000 people were killed and almost all of Belize City was destroyed. The water rose nine feet in some areas, even onto Belize City’s Swing Bridge. Though forewarned by Pan American Airlines that the hurricane was heading their way, most of the townsfolk were unconcerned, believing that their protective reef would keep massive waves away from their shores. They were wrong.
The next devastation came with Hurricane Hattie in 1961. Winds reached a velocity of 150 mph, with gusts of 200 mph; 262 people drowned. It was after Hurricane Hattie that the capital of the country was moved from Belize City (just 18 inches above sea level) to Belmopan. Then, in 1978, Hurricane Greta took a heavy toll in dollar damage, though no lives were lost. More recent serious hurricanes affecting Belize include Mitch in 1998, Keith in 2000, Iris in 2001, and Dean in 2007.
There have also been a number of less serious “northers.” In the summer of 2008, Tropical Storm Arthur caused severe flooding throughout the country and major bridges were washed out. In 2010 Hurricane Richard did an unexpected two-step into the Cayo District, destroying the Belize Zoo and a swath of forest canopy in the center of the country.
© Joshua Berman and Avalon Travel from Moon Belize, 9th Edition